Commentary: Aretha Franklin gave us a lifetime of memories

Aretha Franklin

Commentary: Aretha Franklin gave us a lifetime of memories
August 30
10:52 2018

By James B. Ewers Jr.

I am in the fourth quarter of my life and trying to get to overtime. Tomorrow is not promised, as I know my days are numbered. If you are my age or near it, you wake up each morning wondering how much sand is left in the hour glass.

When I was a young boy growing up in Winston-Salem, I would hear my elders in church saying, “You better get right with God,” and “Jesus is on the main line.” Neither of those expressions resonated with me. For me and my friends, we never thought about tomorrow not coming. We just thought we would go to bed each night, wake up each morning and go to school. We also believed that God would take care of us, especially since we prayed to Him at night.

Youth will make you feel invincible. Being young, I never thought about growing old. When I saw senior citizens, I never thought about being their age someday. Well, I am now. I never considered the sun setting, only the sun rising. Now, I am giving much more thought to the sun setting.

My dear friend, William Earl, and I were talking recently about events that have happened in our lifetime. We have known each other since our days in elementary school together. We have witnessed a lot of first-time events and, also some tragedies. Each event has in some way shaped our lives and made us appreciate life even more. We have been truly blessed to still be here and clothed in our right minds. Sometimes when you are in the fourth quarter, it’s no guarantee that you will be clothed in your right mind.

Important leaders, politics, sports and entertainers have all been a part of America’s landscape. Tragedies like 9\11, political figures like President Barack Obama, Civil Rights heroes like Dr. King and entertainers like Aretha Franklin gave us all reasons for tears, hope and joy.

It could be said in a convincing way that Aretha Franklin gave us all three. She passed away on Aug. 16 at her home in Detroit Michigan. The world took a timeout and paused to remember this musical icon.  Honestly, I can’t ever remember not listening to Aretha Franklin. Over time, the world just referred to her as Aretha out of great respect.

Her style of music had soul written all over it. Maybe it was because she started singing in her father’s church. Rev. C. L. Franklin was the pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church. He didn’t know at the time that his daughter would become a musical ambassador for the world.

Aretha was nominated for 44 Grammys. She became a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.  Aretha was a musical genius and was truly one in a million.

Bonnie Raitt said, “In her voice, you can hear the redemption and the pain, the yearning and the surrender.” Aretha Franklin cared about this country and at the tender age of 16 went with Dr. King to sing at Civil Rights events. Her name will always be associated with the Civil Rights Movement.

Her homegoing service will be held on Aug. 31. There will never be another queen of soul. Aretha Franklin was the one and only.

James B. Ewers  Jr. Ed.D. is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University, where he was all-conference for four years. He is a retired college administrator.  He can be reached at

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