When you reach a certain age like myself and someone famous dies it affects you. Especially if that someone played predominantly from the musical soundtracks of your life like Aretha Franklin. At 67 there is still not a day that goes by that I don’t play her music. I always knew this day would come, but when she died on August 16th I felt that a piece of me had faded away and suddenly felt really old.
According to scientific report, our musical idols die young. Many of them die from drug overdoses, drunk-driving accidents and that the average lifespan of musicians is only 45. So let me get this right– I am going to live longer if I’m not participating in any of the above? Somehow I would like to feel reassured, but I don’t, and I am not banking on many extra years these days.
In 1967 Aretha released the song Respect and life was never the same for me. With ironed hair that I had set on empty orange juice cans and my mini tent dress, I danced to her music on the weekend in the basement of the old bus terminal on Depot Street in Cowansville. Not once did I ever think about getting older and protesting about getting senior discounts only when I supposedly had one foot in the grave at age 60.
In 1968 I became part of the Pepsi Generation and watched American Bandstand on TV in colour dancing to what was called Slo Jams to Aretha singing Natural Woman. Living a few blocks from the Montreal CFCF studios I was a regular audience dancer on the TV show Like Young. When I screamed hysterically when Bobby Darin and Englebert Humperdinck appeared on stage, no one ever told me at age 60 I was going to get a very important letter from my bank.
I had no idea dancing to her music at Snoopy’s on Dorchester Street in 1969 that the very day I turned 60 it was going to be an important milestone for me. I was too busy making cassette mixtapes of Aretha’s songs to even think of gray hair, sore knees and retirement. In 2011 the bank would thank me for being a client for many years. Because I was turning 60 they would give me me a monthly rebate of $4.00 on my monthly fees instead of charging me $13.95 a month. The bank was definitely paying this Natural Woman a little Respect. Or were they? Playing Chain of Fools on my stereo on a daily basis I never thought about the the extra $4.00 savings each month. Would $4.00 buy me a package of Depends down the road?
As the years passed and slowly entering my golden years Aretha’s music was still always part of my life, and so was my bank. The bank seemed to know as I danced around the kitchen in my pajamas to her music last Thursday with uncombed hair that I would need a colonoscopy as part of their cherished older clientele. That’s right, they were Saying a Little Prayer for Me that I would do the right thing when they sent me that letter last week.
Aretha, I am going to remember every time I danced to your songs on the radio, my transistor radio, reel to reel, 8 tracks, cassettes, CDS, YouTube and now ITunes. Thank you for sharing your gift with the world. The choir upstairs just got a little better. As for the bank knowing my every move all these years? Thanks for always checking up on me, I’m doing fine, but I’m really going to miss Aretha Franklin. But, please send candles next time in your letters as they are costing me more than the cake now. My body called the Freeway of Love is a lot older now– but you knew that A Change was Gonna Come.