Thursday, August 16, 2018

Farewell to an inspiration to the generations

Through all the mad repetitious news – Brexit, Muslim challenges, terrorism, the utterances of the world’s most powerful fool – comes some really significant and sad news, the loss of a wonderful songster. Aretha Franklin.
What a voice, what a bringer of such intense pleasure, what a life and inspiration for so many of us, and yet s
uddenly is no longer of this world.
Hopefully, there is a heaven of the sort she believed in and encouraged others to accept. If so, lucky angels.
David Remnick in New Yorker magazine wrote, ‘Aretha Franklin’s voice was a pure, painful, and unforgettable expression of American history and American feeling, the collective experience of black Americans and her own life.’

The voice of now

Of course, she was much more international than that. She was very much the voice of now of all of our species, back when it was our now in the sixties, the now in each of the near fifty decades since.
David Remnick writes that she was ‘… the daughter of the most influential black pastor in Detroit, a charismatic, often cruel man who filled the house with musical friends—Duke Ellington, Della Reese, Nat Cole, Mahalia Jackson—and a constant cloud of threat and fury.’
BBC radio news reminded us that she was a mother of two at 15, which meant she could be an inspiration to all mothers of tender years.
But then the singer established herself as an important social figure for all of us. As for so many, her distinctive and really moving – really human - voice has been with me through so many adventures of my adult life.

Her songs in the storms

In storms in the Southern Ocean as I sailed alone around the world, there was that wonderful voice, and up louder than normal as storms provided plenty of surplus power via Spirit of Pentax’s wind turbine generator.
And her voice was part of so many other singlehanded voyages, even on the madcap open boat which I attempted to sail from Cape Town to Brighton, but which – along with her tapes – went to Davy Jones when the dinghy overturned in a gale.
Continues on the blogs for my ocean travel book, Sailing to Purgatory, at


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