With the recent passing of the icon, Aretha Franklin, I think it is only fitting to look back on some of her more loved songs by LGBTQ community. I know that, primarily, I am speaking more to myself specifically, but these are songs that are immensely powerful. They were songs that leant me strength at times of struggle and songs that seemed to sum up feelings of a large percentage of gay men. Join me in celebrating someone who made an impact on the music industry for over 50 years.
- Most important for me was R-E-S-P-E-C-T. It was a song that taught me about love and demanding equality from the person I was with. “What you want, baby I got it. What you need, do you know I got it? All I’m asking for is a little respect when you get home.” It resonates that we both want the same things. I can be what you need as long as you respect me. It changed a lot of how I viewed myself in the dating world
- Think. A song that speaks to feminism and liberation. “You better think, think about what you’re trying to do to me…” it calls into question the motive of a person trying to discriminate against you. It also gave me strength to believe that I am good enough and should be treated the same as anyone else, regardless of my orientation
- Sisters Are Doing it For Themselves. A song of solidarity. This was a song that leads so many people to believe that if you wanted something you had to do it yourself. Fight for your career, your rights, and your own respect. Combine that with the fact it was in the move First Wives Club with Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, and Diane Keaton it was a powerhouse. The movie echoes the songs intent so well. It is an all time favorite.
- I Never Loved A Man. A perfect song for a drag performance and one everyone can relate to. How many times have we all been in love with that man that everyone tells us we should just dump? We know it and we should, but he has worked some serious voodoo on us and we cant get away.
- Rock Steady. What gay man doesn’t have a deep down love for disco; if you don’t then you need to learn to appreciate it. This slow burning sultry song that speaks to how music can move you is so many ways. It mirrors how love, dare I say lust, can you move you in the same ways. She uses driving reference is lovely innuendo style to keep you in the mood and your hips moving.
- A Rose Is Still A Rose. This is a song about reclaiming your inner strength after someone tries to take it from you. A real example of cheating relationships and how you need to reclaim your strength and survive. The song talks about someone putting up a front to make others believe she is ok when she is devastated inside. Then turns it around and says, “He can’t lead you and then take you. Make you and then break you, Darlin’, you hold the power.” No matter what someone does to you or how they make you feel, you are still the same person you were before they came into your life.
- Lastly, (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman. On the surface, this song seems to be about someone who justifies their worth by someone coming into their life. For me and many others it was something else entirely. Inner strength from acceptance of how you are is one of the few things that can give you this kind of feeling or power. “Before the day I met you, life was so unkind. You’re the key to my piece of mind.” Coming out does this for so many people and is what it means to me.
These are seven of my most favorite Aretha Franklin songs. The ones that rotate through my music often and bring me up when I am feeling in dire straits. She was an inspiration figure who celebrated inner strength and spoke to an entire generation of women and yes even gay men. Though you may be gone, you will never be forgotten, and you will be missed. May your next journey be as influential.