DigitalHistory_ Profile picture
Aug 16, 2018 14 tweets 9 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
I want to talk about how I use Aretha Franklin's fabulous "fur coat" Obama Kennedy Center Honors 2015 performance in my American popular culture class. Beyond the amazing gifs, it's a powerful moment in the intergenerational fight for Civil Rights
I distribute the lyrics to "You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman" first released in 1967 to my students when we are studying Civil & Women's Rights. I have them analyze the song's lyrical content. When I first ask them what it's about, they initially say it's a love song.
While the song was written by @Carole_King & Gerry Goffin it was first released by #ArethaFranklin on @AtlanticRecords & it's also featured on the "Aretha in Paris" album giving it a global audience in 1968
I then have the students re-read the lyrics to #ArethaFranklin's version of "You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman" in the context of Black Power, the Black is Beautiful movement, the natural hair / afro movement to see how the song changes
Students read the lyrics to the #ArethaFranklin version of Natural Woman in the context of her career as Queen of Soul on the commercial gospel music circuit. How does this song change if you imagine it representing a relationship between a woman and her faith? Ideas of a savior?
I play the @Carole_King version released on the landmark 1971 album "Tapestry." How does this love song & idea of a relationship between a man and a woman or women loving & supporting each other change in the Women's Liberation Movement? #ArethaFranklin
I then move to the amazing performance by #ArethaFranklin in 2015 at the Kennedy Center Honors for @Carole_King, @BarackObama & @MichelleObama. This performance is to celebrate @Carole_King's life's work, but moves into another realm uniting decades & lifting a nation up in song
In this 2015 performance, 7 years after #ArethaFranklin & her famed hat performed at the @BarackObama inauguration sings to the first African American President, First Lady, & @Carole_King who is overjoyed by the power of her voice
The first stanza "Looking out on the morning rain /I used to feel so uninspired/ And when I knew I had to face another day/ Lord, it made me feel so tired" takes on a historical meaning for African American women in the long struggle for freedom & equality #ArethaFranklin
The Queen of Soul #ArethaFranklin turns and looks up into the audience as she sings "Before the day I met you, life was so unkind / But you're the key to my peace of mind" symbolically speaking to the First Family & the long journey America has been on together & progress made
As #ArethaFranklin sings, the amazing musical relationship between Queen of Soul & @Carole_King is celebrated; decades of struggle & fight Aretha put in for Civil Rights is lifted up in @BarackObama as he lovingly sings to his wife @MichelleObama about their relationship.
The song has come full circle--all four people crucial in American movements to push our nation forward in equality, Civil Rights, Women's Rights, in a tapestry that is interdependent. The song collapses back to a love song and new American classic in each historical context.
My favorite part, that I think is the most empowering & restorative, is when #ArethaFranklin sings to @BarackObama "Now I'm no longer doubtful, of what I'm living for/ And if I make you happy I don't need to do more" after the decades of sacrifice & hardship she put in the fight
Oh, baby, what you've done to me
You make me feel so good inside
And I just want to be, close to you
You make me feel so alive... <3 #RESTINPOWER QUEEN OF SOUL #ArethaFranklin

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