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    Long Live the Queen of Soul

    By Andrea Shorter–

    “Ain’t no way.”

    I can hardly imagine living in a world without Aretha Franklin.

    From the womb, the singularly definitive voice of Aretha was destined to have an eternal presence in my life. Like the air that we breathe, her voice was an essential, vital element to being and feeling fully alive. It came as close as mortals might ever come near to hearing the voice of the Divine right here on Earth. Her voice was the light, the truth, the gospel. Comfort. Love. Hope. Gifted. Black. Respect. A bridge over troubled waters.

    The daughter of a preacher man, she inspired, baptized and redeemed us all. Aretha touched our souls and put us in touch with our own hearts, souls and the blues and joy of trying to love ourselves and one another. A deeper love inside.

    She gifted the world a resounding, declarative anthem for liberation and freedom. Civil rights, women’s rights movements and sexual revolution were amped up and fueled, empowered and emboldened by R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me!

    All at once transparent and transcendent, she was a force of nature, a revolutionary act in and of herself. She humbled presidents, kings and queens. She sent our own King home with Precious Lord, Take My Hand. Years later, she helped to free Angela.

    Just the memory of her voice brought a broken nation together in communion and reverence for she who was most truly and undeniably the best of who we are and still can be from sea to shining sea, from Muscle Shoals to the Lincoln Center.

    Genius. Titan. The first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 20 Grammy Awards. Beyond a well-crafted Motown crossover, she unapologetically broke through us, brought us to our knees and lifted us up to our feet, to stand our ground with pride, strength, love and peace.

    Aretha perfected the perfect of Redding, King, Bacharach & David, Lennon & McCartney, Simon & Garfunkel, Taupin & John, Mayfield, The Band, Simone and Cook. Whatever song she borrowed, it was redefined. It became naturally hers and a signature. Respect. Natural Woman. Say a Little Prayer. Let It Be. Bridge Over Troubled Waters. The Border Song. The Weight. Sparkle. Young, Gifted, and Black. A Change Is Going to Come.

    Before there was #BlackGirlMagic, Aretha took us to church and brought the church to us along with soul sister Mavis to deliver us all to salvation with “Oh Happy Day” on One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism.

    Got “Amazing Grace”? Get it. Now!

    Bring it. The Royal Muse, the Diva Deity that parted the waters to full on inspired, grit and expression of rainbow soul of Sylvester, George, Freddie, Melissa, Katy and Elton:

                  “Holy Moses I have been deceived

                  Holy Moses let us live in peace

                  Let us strive to find a way to make all hatred cease

                  There’s a man over there

                  What’s his color I don’t care

                  He’s my brother let us live in peace

                  He’s my brother let us live in peace

                  He’s my brother let us live in peace”

    We give thanks for the gift of living in the time of a timeless, eternal voice that now truly belongs to the ages. May she watch over our wounded souls as we strive to find our way back to each other, to live in love, not hatred, and to live in peace and amazing grace. 

    Rock steady, baby … a change is gonna come.

    Long live the Queen of Soul.

    Andrea Shorter is a Commissioner and the former President of the historic San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. She is a longtime advocate for criminal and juvenile justice reform, voter rights, and marriage equality. A Co-founder of the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition, she was a 2009 David Bohnett LGBT Leadership Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.