As Aretha Franklin said: “We all require and want respect, man or woman, black or white. It’s our basic human right.”
How do you command respect? In the spring of 1967, when 24-year-old Aretha Franklin recorded her version of Otis Reading’s song “Respect,” America was in turmoil. Protests against the Vietnam War were growing, as were the civil rights and women’s liberation movements. Aretha’s signature line, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T / Find out what it means to me,” was a revolutionary proclamation of strength for a woman at that time and became the anthem for anyone who felt marginalized. The daughter of the renowned Reverend C.L. Franklin and gospel singer Barbara Siggers Franklin, Aretha was exposed to notable household visitors such as Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Mahalia Jackson, James Cleveland and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She was immersed in the empowerment cries of the time, and an unapologetic fervor and passion came out in her music. Over the course of her six-decade career, the “Queen of Soul” sold more than 75 million records, garnering 44 Grammy nominations, winning 18, and becoming the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Like Aretha, command respect. Allow your presence to exude confidence and be bold in sharing your uniqueness with the world. Act with integrity and treat others the way you want to be treated. Ask for what you want and speak up for what you believe. Know your innate worth and don’t let anyone, in your personal or professional life, make you feel “less than.” Show people what respect means to you and claim your dignity.
Until next time, remember-it’s your divine life, live it to the fullest. The power is in your hands!
With Purpose & Power,
A Personal Note on Aretha Franklin: My mother, Janie Sykes-Kennedy, knew Aretha Franklin through their mutual vocal coach, Leola Carter. My mother and Aretha would take voice lessons together–at the same time–with Ms. Carter in the CBS building on 54th and Broadway, where the Ed Sullivan theatre is. Aretha must have been around 18 years old at the time. It was before she became a big star. Atlantic Records would send their artists to Ms. Carter for polishing. My mother said that Ms. Carter was sometimes late and Aretha and her would chat about everyday things. Then, they would have their lesson. My mother said, “I always liked Aretha’s soulful voice.” My mother has a beautiful voice herself but stopped singing when she became pregnant with her first child (my brother). Then, a few years later, my family moved to Africa. I wonder what it would have been like if she had pursued a professional singing career? I may not have been born! When I was an executive at VH1 in the 1990s, we formed the VH1 Band. Julie Davidson, SVP of Programming, was the lead singer and Ed Bennett, VH1 President, played guitar. The head of Research was on drums. I was a backup singer. There were a few others in the group I don’t remember. For the cable industry’s “Battle of the Bands,” we performed the song “Respect.” I was doing the “sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me” lines, along with a dance. It was a lot of fun. I think that particular song was one of the reasons we won, beating out HBO and other networks. We commanded respect.
Contributed by Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy.
Image from: Wikimedia Commons.