By Jim James
To say the world has lost an icon with the passing of Aretha Franklin would be an understatement. While she may be gone, we still have the legacy she left, the memories she inspired, and the emotions she spurred. With that sentiment in mind, we asked Jim James of My Morning Jacket to celebrate the life and work of Aretha Franklin and her impact on his life.
how lucky are we – to have been alive on this earth at the very same time as the queen of soul herself aretha franklin?! i will never forget seeing her live in concert in 2008 at radio city music hall. she lifted that hall and my spirit so high off the ground. i remember feeling her voice searing loving lighting thru my heart and soul — filling me with such electricity and tears. life can beat you down…it is easy to start to feel numb…but she reminded me that i was indeed very much alive!
how is it even possible someone could sing with such power and conviction? it was divine-bringing the spirit of the heavens right into the heart of the city — filling the heart of this heathen with “god.” bringing new meaning to my constant struggle to define “god.” hearing her sing in person made me realize that “god” for me was mainly to be found in music. and that in music there with your ears, there is no color, there is no race, there is no judgement. only love. god is love. about 3 months or so after i saw her perform, my group “my morning jacket” would be fortunate enough to perform upon that very same stage. it was a holy night for us, and of course i thought of her so much while we were there. i reached for her soul out in space when i tried to hit the high notes. she lifted me up when i felt i could not deliver. i even got down on my knees and kissed the ground where i knew she had stood such a short time before. her presence for me was still very much on that stage. it was everywhere.
to almost every human being on earth, aretha brings us what we so desperately NEED: love. belonging. equality. try and think of one person on earth who has not been touched by her music — whether they know it or not. her sound is limitless in its reach — loved by countless human beings regardless of race or creed. her voice contains the very essence of what it feels like to be human, what it really means to have hot blood running thru your veins.
her passing now should remind us of this – WAKE UP PEOPLE AND LOVE EACH OTHER BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!!! put aside your petty differences. how much love has been made to her music??? how many babies have been helped along into this world by the sweet sound of her voice? how many times have we slow danced with someone and held them close to her music — wondering about the possibilities of love?
how many times have you rounded a corner too fast driving along just blasting her tunes? how many times have you laughed and danced so hard and shouted at the top of your lungs to that sound!?!? we were just grinding to “rocksteady” on saturday night- completely lost in the groove…totally unaware it would be the last time we’d dance to that jam while she was still down here among us.
how many times…when i was down and out…did i find hope and salvation in the breathtaking sound of her voice?
i won’t even try and count.
to me the music of aretha franklin symbolizes the highest possible achievement here on earth: bringing people together. reminding us we are all equal. creating something so useful…so necessary that it will be shared and enjoyed as long as there are human beings around to share it and dance and sing along. i write this thru the tears…singing along with feeling. thank you aretha for being there through some of the most important moments of my life…some of the best and some of the hardest to get thru. thank you for helping me, helping us all along the way.