Da Musically Inclined Bomb

DePauw University's First Year Seminar on Writing about Music

Friday, November 10, 2006


Everyone knows her most famous songs. At any given second there is probably a drunken frat guy or a thirteen year old American Idol hopeful out there somewhere belting out “Respect”, and I am sure everyone has witnessed their mother singing “Natural Woman” at the top of her lungs while cleaning the house. But there was a long road to this success.
On March 25, 1942, in racially segregated Memphis, Tennessee, the Reverend C. L. Franklin and his gospel singing wife Barbara Siggers welcomed their fourth of five children, Aretha Louise, into the world. By the time Aretha was two, the family had moved from Memphis to Buffalo, New York, and from Buffalo to Detroit. They lived in the church parish, a large house with a nice lawn, but the parish was in the area of Detroit later known as a ghetto, and Aretha was exposed to drug dealers and pimps at a young age. Just four years later, her parents separated, and her mother moved back to Buffalo, her hometown, leaving four of the children, Aretha included, with their father, who was more financially stable. Her mother was a nurse’s aide and could not afford to raise five children, but she did visit them and send them gifts frequently, and they spent the summers with her in Buffalo. Just four more years later, her mother passed away from a sudden heart attack, leaving her father to care for five children. Her father’s parents lived in the church parish with them, but her grandfather was bedridden due to a stroke years before, and her grandmother had to spend a lot of time caring for him. The ladies at the church became mother figures for the children, but Aretha really only wanted to sit in the corner and listen to music.
Aretha grew up around music. Her family owned a radio, a record player, and a piano. Dinah Washington and Mahalia Jackson were among frequent visitors to the Franklins’ house. She taught herself piano, refusing to be taught by anyone else, and began singing in church when she was only ten years old. At age thirteen she joined two of her sisters in traveling the country with her father’s summer revival show.
Only one year later, she got caught up in the whirlwind of being a teenage girl. She started hanging out with the girls her dad warned her about, and fell in what she thought was love. She was pregnant at age fourteen and had to drop out of school. Two years later she birthed another child, but she continued with her music. Throughout this whole time, she had kept one best friend, Erma. The pair considered themselves Sam Cookes’ biggest fans, and Aretha realized that if Sam could make it into the music business from a similar childhood as hers, so could she. At age eighteen she made the tough decision of leaving her children with her grandmother and heading to New York City.
Thus begins her musical career…..

The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock edited by Barbara O'dair
Aretha:From These Roots by Aretha Franklin and David Ritz
The Blues Singers: Ten Who Rocked the World by Julius Lester
Big Star Fallin' Mama by Hettie Jones


At 11/11/2006 10:32 AM, Blogger Andrew said...

I liked the post as a whole, but when you were talking about all the moves she made was a little confusing. Be more conscious of the reader so that you can be understood.

At 11/11/2006 1:39 PM, Blogger iheart-t-ravs said...

Good post overall, I really like the ending line.

At 11/12/2006 9:12 PM, Blogger Mistuh Bond said...

It was good, but I felt that it was a little too stiff, and it didn't grab me that much.

At 11/12/2006 9:26 PM, Blogger Emily Rose said...

I liked how you attempted to look at her life from a different perspective. Good job.

At 11/12/2006 10:21 PM, Blogger Nat said...

You conveyed a lot of information of her background but I felt like there was not much flow or idea of a specific direction that you were leading to.

At 11/12/2006 11:26 PM, Blogger Renee said...

i like the post... the assigment was to write about a specific part of a musicians life. i and what appears to be everyone else assumed writing about the musical part... very creative thinking outside the box!


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