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Dr. J.A. George P. Irish a fallen icon

Dr. James J.A. George P. Irish

With an event such as the passing of such as Montserratian Dr. George Irish in the USA, the information moves very quick far and wide, especially in today’s information ‘age’, socially and otherwise.

So it was, that after this information was shared on December 23, 2018, requesting, “Urgent intercessory prayer for Dr. Irish (George).  He was taken to Einstein Hospital, (New York…He needs a miracle. .and we believe God!  Let’s pray.”

Later news on confirmation from reliable sources, it was reported that he was stable and that the diagnosis that had been circulated (as happens in Social media) was incorrect.

Nothing further until the sudden news on the evening of February 12, 2019, “It is with painful/aching hearts we announce the passing of “DR. GEORGE IRISH (Dr. JAGPI)” our beloved brother and friend.  We have all prayed and asked the Lord to heal him….but HE is in control and does all things well….therefore we all say AMEN TO HIS PERFECT WILL.”

The name “Dr. George Irish,” has always been and immediately the following day was mentioned by everyone who may even just remember having heard of him for somewhere before.

As reported, Premier Donaldson Romeo on Wednesday led Montserrat in “mourning the death of the national icon, Dr. George Irish, who died at the age of 76 years late Tuesday.”

“I, like most Montserratians, am saddened at the passing of the Right Honourable, Dr. James Alfred George Irish, OE, son of the soil and National Icon. Whether known to some as educator, social activist, trade unionist, politician, musician, artist, singer, orator, or Man of God, in each and every aspect he has left an indelible mark on us individually and collectively,” Romeo said, speaking as the majority would.

“As we mourn his loss may we hold on to and be comforted by our God, who Dr Irish himself chose to love, serve and represent as a Pastor and Man of God,” he added.

Beginning to recall his memory

In brief, as at some time soon, a full memorial of the icon will be presented, Irish was the first recipient of the Ph.D. degree in Spanish from the University of the West Indies (UWI).

He also taught at the university as well as at the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo (UASD) in the Dominican Republic, and in the United States at the City University of New York (CUNY) where he served as Professor of Caribbean and Latin American Studies.

In a poem, Sir Howard Fergus, who co-wrote the Montserrat National Anthem with Irish, said “in this sickly season when the smell of death pervades the atmosphere, the passing of Professor Irish creates a sad and gaping hole deeper than six feet”. (Presented in this issue)

“George has left us and has left much. At a time when “icon” is liberally distributed as klim in our impoverished childhood, it seems beggarly to so endow him, I dub him a Montserrat avatar which carries spiritual overtones, in honour of his enormous gifting which he generously invested in his island home, attracting meagre appreciation; his legacy is wide and long,” Sir Howard, who served as acting Governor of this British Overseas Territory, wrote in a poem. (See poem in this issue)

Irish was also the founder of the Montserrat Allied Workers’ Union and the Montserrat Cooperative Credit Union. He was also the author of more than 25 books. (See later)

Shirley Spycalla
a celebrated soprano opera soloist, singer,  in a Social media comment wrote briefly:
 “Dr Irish was an impressive Music Director of the Emerald Community Singers back in the day.”

Montserratian Journalist Toni Frederick-Armstrong Remembers Dr. George Irish remembers in a memorial, “I am honoured to have known him…even as a child I think I always understood that he was a pretty ‘big deal.’” (See in this issue)

The local campus of the UWI also filed a tribute to the late Dr. JAGPI. (See citation here)

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Prime Minister saddened by death of distinguished Caribbean attorney

Prime Minister saddened by death of distinguished Caribbean attorney

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Dec. 27, CMC – Prime Minister Gaston Browne has expressed the sorrow at the death of well known attorney Sir Fenton Ramsahoye who was made a Knight of the Order of the Nation here in 2006.

Sir Fenton Ramsahoye

“One of our distinguished Knights has fallen, and we in Antigua and Barbuda, join his family, friends and admirers throughout the Caribbean in mourning his passing.”

Browne recalled the distinguished legal career of Sir Fenton, who was born in Guyana and served as that country’s Attorney-General in the colonial period before serving as Professor at the Hugh Wooding Law school, and representing Caribbean governments, private individuals and companies before the Privy Council and the Caribbean Court of Justice.

“Sir Fenton will be remembered with respect and admiration by a generation of Caribbean attorneys who benefitted from his knowledge and willingness to share it”.

“He was an erudite scholar of the law and defended his clients with unfailing commitment”, the Prime Minister declared.

Sir Fenton  who was 89, died early Thursday, at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados.

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Sir Fenton Ramsahoye QC

Sir Fenton’s remains for homeland, Guyana

Sir Fenton Ramsahoye QC

SIR Fenton Ramsahoye, QC,who died in Barbados on Thursday last week, will be cremated there and his remains taken to his homeland of Guyana.

An article in the Stabroek News of Guyana quoted Ramsahoye’s brother, Dr Walter Ramsahoye, as saying the leading regional lawyer died at Bayview Hospital after a brief illness, with one of his two sons, Bernard, at his bedside.

Walter said his brother’s wish was “to have his remains cremated wherever he died and to have them returned to Guyana to be buried in the Blankenburg Anglican churchyard, closer to his childhood home in Blankenburg, West Coast Demerara.”

Ramsahoye, 89, was Guyana’s first attorney general. He lived and worked in TT for many years. He leaves to mourn his widow Phyllis and sons. Bernard is a professor of medicine.

The Stabroek News reported, “Speaking of his brother, Walter said Sir Fenton was a lawyer par excellence, having the reputation in the British Commonwealth of winning more cases in the Privy Council in London, than any other lawyer in the commonwealth.”

It quoted a tribute from Guyana’s bar association which said, “Sir Fenton was one of the greatest legal luminaries ever produced by Guyana.”

An official from the Law Association of TT told Newsday it would pay tribute to Ramsahoye in a media release this week.

Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, said he worked with Ramsahoye in over 20 cases from TT’s High Court to the Privy Council.

He recalled when he was jailed for contempt of court in 1976 by the late Sonny Maharaj for refusing to apologise to the judge, “It was Ramsahoye who argued my case in the Appeal Court and the Privy Council. The law lords in their judgment agreed with Fenton that lawyers must not be subservient to judges if they feel they are misconducting themselves on the bench to the detriment of clients.”

Maharaj also recalled the famous case of the Judge’s Wife, which dealt with the rights of the media to report on matters affecting the public interest.

Ramsahoye, Maharaj said, was a strong advocate of retaining the Privy Council.

“He was strong in his view that justice was too important for the average man and woman to be left for small societies like ours to have the final say.”

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Opening of the New Law Year 2018 to 2019- Saint Christopher and Nevis

Opening of the New Law Year 2018 to 2019 – Saint Christopher and Nevis

 

Opening of the New Law Year 2018 to 2019- Saint Christopher and Nevis

On Tuesday 18th September 2018, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court will commence the New Law Year 2018/2019 with its usual Ceremonial Opening in the form of a Special Sitting of the Court in Saint Christopher & Nevis.  There will be simultaneous special sittings in the other eight (8) Member States and Territories of the OECS.The proceedings will commence with a church service in each Member State and Territory followed by the procession to the High Court where the formal sitting will be held.  In Saint Christopher & Nevis, the Church Service will be held at the Zion Moravian Church, located at Victoria Road, Basseterre, St. Kitts, commencing at 8:00 am, followed by the inspection of the Guard of Honour and the formal Court Sitting which will be held at High Court.

The Chief Justice, Her Ladyship, Dame Janice M. Pereira, DBE will deliver the Opening Address at 10:00 a.m. from Saint Christopher & Nevis where the Court of Appeal is scheduled for its first sitting in the New Law Year.

The theme for the opening of the Law Year’s address is Challenges, Opportunities and Resilience: The ECSC paving the way to a Modern and Efficient Judiciary for the Eastern Caribbean

The Chief Justice’s address will be carried live via simulcast to the other Member States and Territories of the OECS and will also be broadcast throughout the region via the local media.

The public is encouraged to participate in the Ceremonial Opening of the Law Year 2018/2019 by attending either the church service or the special sitting or by listening to your local radio station.

The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) was established in 1967 by the West Indies Associated States Supreme Court Order No. 223 of 1967. The (ECSC) is a superior court of record for the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), including six independent states: Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and three British Overseas Territories (Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, and Montserrat). It has unlimited jurisdiction in each member State.

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CARICOM SG praises late Montserrat chief minister

CARICOM SG praises late Montserrat chief minister

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Sept 14, CMC – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General, Irwin La Rocque, Wednesday described the former Montserrat chief minister, Bertrand Osborne as a person of “integrity, honesty and trustworthiness”.

Bertrand Osborne (File Photo)

Osborne, who served as chief minister of the volcano-ravaged British Overseas Territory for a nine month period in the 1990’s, died last Tuesday. He was 83 year-old.

Osborne, a prominent businessman, served as chief minister from November 1996 to August 1997. He resigned after he came under severe criticism from politicians and demonstrators alike for being too pro-British, and for failing to negotiate firmly enough with London over an aid package after the eruption of the Soufriere volcano.

In a condolence message sent to Premier Donaldson Romeo,  La Rocque lauded Osborne’s dedication to politics and the private sector, noting that his “heightened sense of social responsibility will long be remembered in his native land.

“He will be remembered for his integrity, honesty and trustworthiness which has been acknowledged by all regardless of political affiliation. The Community extends its condolences to his wife Lystra, his children and the entire Osborne family and the Government and people of Montserrat,” La Rocque added.

No details have been given regarding Osborne’s death and the state-owned ZJB Radio said that he had served in the Legislative Council for 14 years.

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Bertrand-Osborne - OECS

OECS Director General extends condolences on passing of former Chief Minister of Montserrat Bertrand Osborne

OECS Media release

Wednesday, September 12, 2018 — The OECS conveys sincere condolences to the Government and people of Montserrat on the passing of Bertrand Osborne, former Chief Minister.

Mr Bertrand Osborne served as Chief Minister of Montserrat from November 1996 to August 1997 during the volcanic crisis and was a member of the Montserrat Legislative Council for 14 years.He was also honoured with the National Order of Distinction award in 2014. 

“We have lost a leader, an oustanding man whose contribution to the development of Montserrat and by extension the OECS region is invaluable. We mourn this loss with the nation of Montserrat and extend our deepest sympathies to his family,” Director General of the OECS Commission Dr. Didacus Jules stated.

 
 

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Calm as he will be remembered

Thanksgiving Service and Mass for Bertrand B. Osborne who died on Tuesday, September 4, 2018

by Bennette Roach

Calm as he will be remembered

The following information has been confirmed and presented for the benefit of those who cannot otherwise attend the services but have access to radio, television and of course the miniature viewing provided by their tablets and smart phones. More specifically, overseas viewers worldwide will have their access.

The GIU will be bringing you live video coverage of the Service of Thanksgiving for the late Bertrand Osborne, starting at 10:30 a.m. today at the Montserrat Cultural Centre. This stream will be avialble on our facebook page ‘Government Information Unit Montserrat’. Our coverage will also be shared on liveislandevents.com.  Radio Montserrat will also broadcast live audio of the Service.

Thanks to Digicel, this stream will also be carried live on local television, on channels 8 and 352.

The Mass of Thanksgiving at the Catholic Church starting at 2:30p.m. will be streamed by live islands events on both Facebook and websites. There will also be live video coverage of the military procession leading to the St. James Anglican Church where Mr. Osborne will be buried.

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It's long been known that Apple cofounder Steve Jobs treated people cruelly, but his daughter's new autobiography offers new details.YouTube/AllThingsD

The shame of Steve Jobs, as told by his shunned daughter

Published by Q U A R T Z
 
THINK DIFFERENT
By Ephrat Livni  August 25, 2018
A portrait of Steve Jobs made of thousands of pieces of chewed gum, by artists Anna-Sofiya Matveeva.

Lisa Brennan-Jobs is the daughter of a postmodern god. Steve Jobs’ enduring influence after his 2011 death proves the legendary Apple innovator is an immortal of sorts. Now, the child he initially rejected is releasing a memoir that shows the man who may be the most admired technologist of all time was deeply flawed.

Small Fry, which comes out on Sept. 4 and was excerpted in Vanity Fair (paywall) this month, is intended to be an honest retrospective, its author says. Brennan-Jobs, who was not acknowledge by her father as his own for many years, frames his famous story in her own words, to heal and recapture, to get the last word, as she says in an Aug. 23 New York Times profile (paywall).

The book excerpt and the profile piece reveal a woman who appears deeply scarred by her father’s early rejection, though she urges understanding and forgiveness. It’s almost as if she’s being held hostage by the memory of the man, and identifying with her captor, like someone suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. She asks the Times’ Nellie Bowles,“Have I failed in fully representing the dearness and the pleasure? The dearness of my father, and the outrageous pleasure of being with him when he was in good form?”

The answer to that question is, from what we’ve seen so far, is yes. What she has revealed—Jobs’ emotional callousness, his spiritual and financial stinginess with her—cast a dark shadow on his legendary status.

Lisa Brennan-Jobs marks a remarkable life

Brennan-Jobs has just turned 40, gotten married, and given birth to her own child. In a discussion of milestones with the Wall Street Journal on Aug. 13, she explains, “It was important that I examine parts of my life [in my memoir] that seemed shameful or embarrassing so I could try to understand them differently. Milestones are big enough that if you’re lucky you’re going to learn more about yourself. In this case the only way to get to something truthful was to write, to dig.”

And do she did. Brennan-Jobs reveals her complicated backstory. She was born in 1978 on a farm in Oregon. Her father, then 23, wasn’t there: “My father arrived a few days later,” she writes. “‘It’s not my kid,’ he kept telling everyone at the farm, but he’d flown there to meet me anyway. I had black hair and a big nose, and [his friend] said, “’She sure looks like you.’”

This was, of course, before Jobs was famous, and was just another young guy refusing to acknowledge paternity or pay child support. He was working on a personal computer that didn’t succeed—it was named the Lisa, like his daughter. But he would not admit a connection. When Brennan-Jobs was a teen, Apple was a successful public company, and her father had evolved into the role of icon, she held on to the idea that the Lisa tag was evidence of love. She writes:

By then the idea that he’d named the failed computer after me was woven in with my sense of self, even if he did not confirm it, and I used this story to bolster myself when, near him, I felt like nothing. I didn’t care about computers…but I liked the idea that I was connected to him in this way. It would mean I’d been chosen and had a place, despite the fact that he was aloof or absent. It meant I was fastened to the earth and its machines. He was famous; he drove a Porsche. If the Lisa was named after me, I was a part of all that.

Jobs finally did admit Lisa was named after the girl. Not because she asked. At a visit to the rock star Bono’s house, the U2 frontman inquired—with Brennan-Jobs, then 27, nearby—whether the computer was named for her. Jobs hesitantly admitted it was. “‘That’s the first time he’s said yes,’ I told Bono. ‘Thank you for asking,’” she writes. “As if famous people needed other famous people around to release their secrets.”

What was once hidden now holds hope

Brennan-Jobs is now famous herself and releasing her own secrets. Yet she seems profoundly wounded, trapped still, though she claims writing the memoir helped to free and heal her. She tells the Times that while penning the book, she covered mirrors around her work space with paper, admitting “I don’t like catching myself in the mirror because it’s like—‘Oh, self.’”

Similarly, she asks her profiler to describe her in her own words, offering a self-deprecating account of her face. “My face is uneven. I have small eyes. I wish I had dimples, but I don’t. I think right now I look jowly…My nose is not particularly delicate.”

Rather than being the memoirist recapturing her own tale, it seems as if her father’s voice is narrating her life story—one in which Brennan-Jobs is failing at being a successful family member, will inherit nothing from her father, and who stinks like a toilet. Those are just a few of the many cruel things Jobs said to her. (He did ultimately put her in his will.)

Perhaps it’s impossible to escape the shadow of a dark master like Jobs, who also happens to be your father and despite being widely acknowledge as a genius, is not a talented dad. Brennan-Jobs defends him anyway, saying he was was just unusually honest and that his toughness taught her valuable lessons.

For the rest of us, who don’t have to deal with Jobs’ legacy personally, the revelations only serve to take the icon—never admired for cuddliness—down another notch. What Small Fry and Brennan-Jobs show is something we already know and don’t like admitting. Our cultural heroes and accomplished geniuses are only just people, and often not particularly good ones.

See also: https://www.businessinsider.com/steve-jobs-terrible-small-fry-daughter-book-2018-8

The memoir by Steve Jobs’ daughter makes clear he was a truly rotten person whose bad behavior was repeatedly enabled by those around him

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636676055426018760-Aretha-Franklin--Atlantic-R.jpg

Aretha Franklin, ‘Queen of Soul’ who transformed American music, dies at 76

Reports say the music icon died from advanced pancreatic cancer in her Detroit home surrounded by family. Here’s a look at her iconic career that spans generations in music and American history. USA TODAY

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Aretha Franklin, whose impassioned, riveting voice made her a titan of American music, died of pancreatic cancer on Thursday, her niece Sabrina Owens confirmed. She was 76.

She died at 9:50 a.m. ET surrounded by family at her home in Detroit.

A family statement released by her publicist, Gwendolyn Quinn, said “Franklin’s official cause of death was due to advance pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin’s oncologist, Dr. Philip Philip of Karmanos Cancer Institute” in Detroit.

The family added: “In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family.”

Franklin was one of the transcendent cultural figures of the 20th century. Raised on an eclectic musical diet of gospel, R&B, classical and jazz, she blossomed out of her father’s Detroit church to become the most distinguished female black artist of all time, breaking boundaries while placing nearly 100 hits on Billboard’s R&B chart – 20 of them reaching No. 1.

The Queen of Soul, as she was crowned in the 1960s, leaves a sprawling legacy of classic songs that includes “Respect,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools,” “Baby I Love You,” “Angel,” “Think,” “Rock Steady,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Freeway of Love,” along with a best-selling gospel catalog.

Reaction: John Legend, Barbra Streisand and other celebs grieve 

Remember: Aretha Franklin’s greatest pop culture moments

Lenny Kravitz:Aretha ‘meant so much to me’

Her death follows several years of painstakingly concealed medical issues, which led to regular show cancellations and extended absences from the public eye.

In March, Franklin canceled two concerts scheduled in New Jersey. According to a statement from her management team, she was following doctors’ orders to stay off the road and rest for two months, and she was “extremely disappointed she cannot perform as she had expected and hoped to.”

Franklin’s last performance was on Nov. 2, for the Elton John AIDS Foundation in New York. The previous June, visibly feeble but still summoning magic, Franklin played her final hometown Detroit show, an emotion-packed concert for thousands at an outdoor festival downtown. 

She ended the performance with a then-cryptic appeal to her the crowd: “Please keep me in your prayers.”

The Queen of Soul sang for presidents and royalty, and befriended high-profile leaders such as the Revs. Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesse Jackson. Amid the global glitter and acclaim, she remained loyal to her adopted home, living in the Detroit area for decades, including the Bloomfield Hills house where she moved in the late ’80s.

“My roots are there. The church is there. My family is there,” she told the Detroit Free Press in 2011. “I like the camaraderie in Detroit, how we’ll rally behind something that’s really worthy and come to each other’s assistance.”

Franklin’s voice was a singular force, earning her a multitude of laurels through the decades, including 18 competitive Grammy Awards and a Lifetime Achievement Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and honorary doctorates from a host of institutions. In 1987, she became the first female artist inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and seven years later, at age 52, the youngest recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor.

Franklin topped Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Greatest Singers of All Time list, and her signature hit, “Respect,” ranked No. 4 on “Songs of the Century,” a 1999 project by the National Endowment for the Arts. She performed at the inaugurations of U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, garnering global attention at the latter for her big fur hat with its crystal-studded bow – a piece now in the Smithsonian Institution.

Franklin’s influence is vast and indelible. It’s most obviously heard in the myriad voices that followed her, from Mary J. Blige to Adele, and even male singers such as Luther Vandross.

But just as important is Franklin’s broader social impact: She embodied American black culture, emphatically and without apology, and through sheer force of talent, thrust it onto the global stage.

Franklin revolutionized black music and the way it was absorbed and perceived, helping create a world where we take for granted that a Beyonce can reign atop mainstream popular culture.

Franklin was emotionally complex, a woman who relished her diva status but whose vulnerabilities and insecurities always seemed to lurk just beneath. Her public success masked a private life of turbulence and loss, making for an intriguing character driven by conflicting forces: Franklin was sassy but naturally shy, urbane but down-home, confident but reckless.

That deep, complicated humanity imbued her music with authenticity. Franklin’s singing, soaked in feeling and executed with virtuoso skill, moved seamlessly among styles: gospel, soul, pop, blues, R&B, jazz, even opera. She belted, purred, seduced, testified. Even as the propulsive power left her voice in later years, she remained as expressive as ever, and her live performances continued to earn critical acclaim.

“I must do what is real in me in all ways,” she told Ebony magazine in 1967, the year when a string of hit singles – “Respect,” “Baby I Love You,” “Chain of Fools” – gave Franklin her first major crossover success.

Aretha Franklin brought down the house at President Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009. Her performance was as memorable for her hat as it was for her rendition of “My country ’tis of thee.” (Aug. 16) AP

Franklin’s early life

Born in Memphis on March 25, 1942, Franklin moved at age 4 to Detroit when her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, took over duties at New Bethel Baptist Church.

Turmoil set in early: Her mother left Detroit for Buffalo, New York, when Aretha was 6, and died four years later.

Still, Franklin grew up in an environment ideal for nurturing her skills. Her charismatic father was a preacher and singer with a national reputation, with sermons that became top-selling records and a gospel revue that toured the country. That brought important musical figures into the young singer’s orbit, including household guests such as James Cleveland, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King and Sam Cooke. Growing up on Detroit’s northwest side, she was a childhood friend of Smokey Robinson.

She became a singing prodigy at New Bethel, and her sisters, Carolyn and Erma, also honed their gospel skills. But it was Aretha who emerged as the standout, and by age 14 she was accompanying her father on his gospel travels.

 

Gospel was the main focus, but the Franklin household was teeming with all manner of music.

“I heard classical music from the beginning. It was always in our home,” Franklin told the Free Press in 2011. “As a teenager I took more to the R&B, but I always loved classical.”

R&B music, frowned upon by many in the traditional gospel world, was also welcome in the house. The Rev. Franklin, progressive in politics and disposition, put up little resistance to the secular sounds exemplified by artists such as Cooke.

The young Aretha absorbed the emotional power of music in its many forms, whether in the throes of an ecstatic congregation or the intimacy of close listening. 

“(My older sister) Erma was a big fan of ‘Be My Love’ by Mario Lanza,” she recalled. “How many times did we hear that in our house?! Sylvia Robinson, Smokey’s sister, used to visit Erma and play ‘Be My Love,’ pressing their ears against the speakers, just crying.

“I was quite young at the time, and I thought it was very funny that these girls were crying with their ears against the speaker. I didn’t do that with the artists I heard (then) – Frankie Lymon, the Clovers, LaVern Baker, Ray Charles. As an adult I began to perfectly understand it. When I heard someone knocking me out, I thought, ‘OK, so this is what that was about.’ ”

In 1960, at age 18, Franklin spurned a hometown offer from Berry Gordy’s fledgling Motown label and opted to sign with New York’s Columbia Records, where her demo tape had caught the ear of iconic talent scout John Hammond. A year later – shortly after Franklin married her manager, Ted White – her Columbia debut was released.

That record set the tone for her five-year, nine-album tenure at Columbia, where she was groomed as an interpreter of jazz and pop standards, presented as a chanteuse at the piano.

Franklin was quietly masterful at the keyboard. Throughout her career, it was a skill overshadowed by her voice – although she played piano on most of the work for which she’s now remembered.

The Columbia period proved fruitful but frustrating for the young singer, helping expand her talent while sticking a bridle on the gospel-honed voice behind it. Even as her critical reputation and live draw grew, she managed only a handful of minor hits.

“It’s a fast track to the top if you’ve really got it going on. But I like the way I came up in the industry,” she told the Free Press in 2014. “It wasn’t too fast. It wasn’t overnight, but (rather) little by little. And gradually I grew in the industry. I like that more than the overnight sensation, as one might put it. I was able to learn along the way and grow at a very, very nice pace. My pace, really. I wasn’t thrust into anything I wasn’t ready for.”

Real success blossomed in 1967, when the 24-year-old Franklin declined to renew her Columbia contract and signed with Atlantic Records, where executives Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler saw a chance to unleash the raw power of Franklin’s vocals. Her first Atlantic single – “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” – was cut at the burgeoning soul-music hotbed FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

Within weeks it was Franklin’s first No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B chart, cracking the pop Top 10 as well. She was on her way to mainstream success.

As with so much of her coming work, the performance on “I Never Loved a Man” was fueled by a deep intensity but with an intimate, welcoming feel that helped Franklin connect with listeners across the board.

“She has never learned how to be pretentious enough to build a false image, and deeply identifies with people on all levels,” Ebony wrote that year, going on to quote Franklin:

“Everybody who’s living has problems and desires just as I do,” she told the magazine. “When the fellow on the corner has somethin’ botherin’ him, he feels the same way I do. When we cry, we all gonna cry tears, and when we laugh, we all have to smile.”

‘Respect’ and the ascension to fame

Franklin’s career quickly skyrocketed: With Wexler overseeing sessions and many of the Muscle Shoals players recruited to Atlantic’s New York studio, Franklin recorded a flurry of hits in the ensuing months, all of them enduring for decades as staples of her repertoire: “Respect,” “Baby I Love You,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools, “Ain’t No Way.” She was backed on many by sisters Carolyn and Erma, who enjoyed modest solo success of their own.

Franklin was no one’s puppet in the studio: Even in her earliest years, she was assertive during record sessions, crafting arrangements and dictating commands to seasoned musicians many decades her senior.

By ’68, Franklin was an iconic figure in the African-American community – “the Queen of Soul,” as she was christened by the black press. She was now inescapably important: Franklin’s status was seconded by mainstream America that summer when she graced the cover of Time magazine.

While Franklin was not often explicitly political in public, she embraced her anointed role just as the black-pride movement was flowering. “Respect,” in particular, took on anthem-like stature, hailed as a bold feminist and civil-rights statement – though Franklin long insisted she had no grand designs when she recorded the Otis Redding tune about household relationships.

On Feb. 16, 1968 – declared “Aretha Franklin Day” by Detroit Mayor Jerome P. Cavanagh – she performed a celebratory hometown show for 12,000. In attendance was the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., two months before his assassination, and he took the stage to present Franklin with an award on behalf of his Southern Christian Leadership Council.

As would become typical of Franklin’s story, the outward success masked drama behind the scenes. The marriage to White, in particular, had become fraught, marked by domestic violence. By 1969, they were divorced. She would go on to wed actor Glynn Turman in 1978, a marriage that lasted six years.

The hits continued to pile up. By the end of the 1960s she had placed 28 songs in the R&B Top 40, a mix of original material and eclectic cover songs, including work by the Beatles (“Eleanor Rigby”) and the Band (“The Weight”). The momentum carried into the following decade, with a string of hit records and a 1972 gospel album, “Amazing Grace,” that became one of the genre’s all-time best sellers.

Success on the R&B side continued in the ’70s even as the pop hits tapered off, though 1976’s “Sparkle” soundtrack produced one of Franklin’s abiding crossover classics, the Curtis Mayfield-penned “Something He Can Feel.” A scene-stealing appearance in the 1980 comedy “The Blues Brothers,” where Franklin performed as a waitress belting out “Think,” was a colorful introduction for a younger generation.

 

That same year, searching for a new musical direction, Franklin signed with Arista Records, where mogul Clive Davis helped groom a fresh career path for the singer, now approaching 40.

After several tries, the 1985 album “Who’s Zoomin’ Who” became the mainstream smash they sought, producing the hit “Freeway of Love” and placing Franklin in front of the MTV audience. A duet with George Michael, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” topped the global charts two years later.

Franklin, who had spent much of the 1970s in Los Angeles, was now permanently resettled in metro Detroit, with several area properties including the Bloomfield Hills residence that would remain her primary home for the next three decades. Her father had died in 1984 after a five-year coma; he’d been shot during an attempted robbery at his Detroit home.

The 1990s saw Franklin growing into the role of elder soul stateswoman, satisfied with her status as one of pop history’s greats and playing up the diva role that had become an integral facet of her persona. While the studio pace slowed – she released just five albums from 1998 through her death – her latter-day music was generally well received, with Grammy nominations for “A Rose Is Still a Rose” (1998) and “So Damn Happy” (2003).

“I’m comfortable in my own skin, and my six-inch heels,” she told the Free Press in 2011.

Though Franklin still performed regularly in the ’90s and ’00s, her touring work was hampered by her fear of flying, which set in after a frightening small-plane trip in the early ’80s. She insisted on bus travel, trekking across the U.S. to play for adoring crowds at theaters and summer amphitheaters.

“I’ve definitely evolved to a greater maturity onstage, a savoir faire, I think,” she told the Free Press. “It’s just about relaxing more, really, and having fun with it. That comes with time, to evolve to that level and find that it’s really very simple … that it’s really about having fun and communicating with your audience.”

Franklin was long dogged by weight issues and struggled with alcohol abuse in the late 1960s. But the first glaring sign of health problems came in 2010, when she canceled six months of concert commitments while hospitalized for undisclosed reasons.

She re-emerged the next summer visibly slimmer and seemingly healthy, returning with a glowing show at the Chicago Theatre: “Six months after the world was braced for the worst, Aretha Franklin gave it her best,” as the Free Press reported at the time.

“Her voice was velvety and potent as she rolled into her set, still finding new curves and corners in the notes of songs such as ‘Think,’ ‘Sparkle’ and ‘Baby I Love You,’ ” read the review.

Nevertheless, Franklin’s concert activity became hit-and-miss during her final years, and show cancellations became par for the course, often chalked up to unnamed health problems. She increasingly spoke of winding things down, performing fewer shows by the year, and in February 2017 finally raised the prospect of retirement, saying she was recording a final album.

Two missions loomed large during the final decade of Franklin’s life, and both were still in the works when she died: She was in ongoing talks to produce a film about her life, frequently talking up potential lead actresses such as Jennifer Hudson, Halle Berry and Audra McDonald. And she was enchanted by the idea of opening a soul-food restaurant in downtown Detroit.

Reclusive by nature, Franklin liked being at home and enjoying “the small things,” as she said in 2011 – polishing the silver, buying a tea set, washing and ironing. She was a reader drawn to biographies and an avid media consumer who looked forward to her daily newspapers.

“I enjoy the comfort of home very much,” she said. “I’m very domestic when I’m at home. I can stay in the house for the longest kind of time and not get out.”

From Obama to Pavarotti, always grand

It was always BIG with Aretha Franklin. The public situations skewed to the larger-than-life, the supersize, the majestic. She was an immense presence, physically and psychologically, and could take over rooms simply by sweeping into them.

She had a knack for finding herself at the center of grand moments, whether stealing the show at the Obama inaugural or filling in for the ailing Luciano Pavarotti with an impromptu “Nessun Dorma” at the 1998 Grammys.

 

“She could get a U.S. president on the phone with two calls,” said Brian Pastoria, who co-engineered some of Franklin’s studio work.

Indeed, it was the little stuff that seemed to vex Franklin most. She struggled with personal finances, and was frequently forced into small-claims court by mom-and-pop operations around metro Detroit – limo services, caterers, contractors. Her home was often cluttered and unkempt, and while experts on creative genius might say that comes with the territory, it was enough to frustrate neighbors and leave visitors puzzled why she had so little help around her.

For years Franklin talked about plans to tackle her flying phobia, but never followed through. It kept her grounded for the final 35 years of her life, plausibly costing her millions in touring revenue.

Franklin was scrupulously private; her personal life was shielded by a tight cadre of family members and friends. When writer Mark Bego set out to pen the first authorized Aretha Franklin biography, 1989’s “The Queen of Soul,” he was struck by the array of unknowns that still surrounded her – basic details about her two marriages and divorces, her upbringing, even her musical inspirations.

“I felt as if I had just encountered one of the great unsolved mysteries of the show-business world,” he wrote.

Franklin cautiously traipsed into some of those topics with her 1999 autobiography, “Aretha: From These Roots.” But she remained elusive enough that her handpicked co-author, David Ritz, was compelled to write his own uninhibited Franklin biography 15 years later.

That book provoked the singer’s wrath – the sort of eruption familiar to those in Aretha’s world. Franklin continually churned through support staff, hiring and firing lawyers, publicists and producers. She feuded with other female singers and knew how to hold a grudge, including a beef with Dionne Warwick that became public only when Franklin alerted the press out of the blue – five years after it happened.

But when it came to the music, few were more disciplined than Franklin. She was serious about her voice and exacting about her concert conditions: big on honey and hot tea before a show and insistent on rooms without air conditioning, aware it could dry out her throat.

Many who worked closely with her also glimpsed the humanity at the heart of the superstar singer who came up in the church.

“She (was) very compassionate,” the late Darryl Houston said in 2010. Houston was Franklin’s accompanying pianist for more than two decades. “When I was dealing with the sickness and eventual death of my father in Mississippi, she was very encouraging in thought and deed. I remember a few times I would get a call from a travel agent saying: ‘When do you want to go see your dad? Ms. Franklin has taken care of the ticket.’ ” 

Brian Pastoria was part of a studio team that worked with Franklin in the 1990s and 2000s, including recording sessions at her home.

“Before the vocal sessions, she’d be in the kitchen making chili. After recording a couple of hours, she’d say, ‘OK, time to eat!’ ” Pastoria recalled. “Even though she was the greatest of all time, the Muhammad Ali of vocals, it was still always her calling on the phone for business, not her lawyer. You’d hear, ‘Hi, honey, how are you!’ It was nice. It was real. You never felt like you were dealing with a major superstar.”

For all the public gowns, glitz and diva references – she was famously portrayed in a Snickers commercial as a crabby prima donna – Franklin was a homegirl at heart. She was a connoisseur of old-school Southern soul food, proud of her knack with homemade dishes like fried chicken and ham with black-eyed peas.

“I think I rank with the best when it comes to the stove,” she told the Free Press in 1996.

That sort of organic realness coursed through her work.

“She paints a picture with a song,” said Houston. “Outside of being vocally astute, you can feel what she’s singing. You can tell when someone is just singing a song, and when the song is a part of their inner being. With Aretha, what leaves the heart reaches the heart.”

 

“It seems she never, ever forgot those roots of the church, and she really believed that we need to look above the things of this world, to a more spiritual level,” said social activist Rocky Twyman. “You felt like she wanted to bless humanity with her music.”

Franklin made her final hometown appearance in Detroit on June 10, 2017, headlining the Detroit Music Weekend festival for thousands gathered in the streets. Down the block two days earlier, tears had streamed down her face as she was honored by the city with the unveiling of Aretha Franklin Way.

For nearly two hours on the festival stage that weekend, she performed a spirited, feisty set while clearly struggling through pain, at one point singing from a plush chair.

Franklin did it her way that night, foregoing many of her biggest hits for a deeper dive into her catalog and a stirring, 11-minute gospel workout of “Precious Memories.”

The old, soaring power may have been missing, but the passion was intact. For one last time in front of her hometown community, there was Aretha Franklin, and there was that voice. 

That voice – still captivating, but now comforting in its decades-long familiarity. A sound still melding urban vitality with the warmth of Southern soul. Still joy, pain, ecstasy, liberation. Still strength and femininity. And still offering, as it always will, the promise of transcendence.

Posted in Entertainment, Featured, International, Local, News, Obituaries0 Comments

Clinton tweet

Pre-mourning” Aretha Franklin

By Brian Stelter and CNN’s media team

Some memories, thoughts and observations0 just prior to her death announcement

The digital age allows us to witness “pre-mourning” on a worldwide scale.

And that’s what we’re witnessing right now around the news that Aretha Franklin‘s health is failing. People are celebrating her life and bracing for her possible death –

– and much of this is playing out in public.

Credit where it’s due: On Tuesday I heard CNN.com EIC Meredith Artley use the term “pre-mourning” to describe the outpouring of love and concern. That’s exactly what it is. Just take a look at a news website, TV newscast, Facebook, or

Twitter. There’s already a tribute concert being planned for the fall.

“It’s very logical on a journalistic and a human level — she is a global icon,” Artley said via email Tuesday night. “A black woman who sings about respect, about being a woman, a moving voice and central figure of civil rights…” Artley said the interest in her life and health and legacy may speak to “a need for some soul and grace in turbulent times.” Very true…

Friends and fans rallying around the star

Psychologists sometimes call it “anticipatory grief.” A friend commented to me that every time she sees Aretha’s name now, “I check to see if she has died.”

Think back to June, when there was a digital embrace of Charles Krauthammer in the weeks before he passed away. The same was true when Barbara Bush was in failing health back in April. And I hate talking this way, but I think we’ve seen some “pre-mourning” of John McCain, given his brain cancer diagnosis.

As for Franklin, Lisa Respers France wrote about the friends and fans rallyingaround the star… Here’s her full story…

Franklin is hearing the tributes

Some deaths come as a shock — Michael Jackson, Robin Williams, Prince. There was no “pre-mourning” them. Two recent examples were Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. But Franklin has apparently been able to hear from some of the people who are concerned about her.

On Tuesday a source close to Franklin told CNN’s Don Lemon that the 76-year- old singer “is being visited by people close to her who are reading her messages from friends and loved ones, holding her hand…”

A reminder: Exercise caution…

A warning via the NYT’s Ben Sisario:

“The lack of detail about Ms. Franklin’s condition led to some premature comments on social media that she had died. On Tuesday, Tim Franklin, a nephew, was

quoted in a report by People magazine saying that Ms. Franklin was ‘alert,

laughing, teasing, able to recognize people.’ That comment was rebutted by the

rest of the Franklin family… ” A family rep said “that Ms. Franklin had met with her nephew in a ‘very brief visit two weeks ago.’ But by then the People report had been picked up by numerous other media outlets.

My final thought on this: Are some sketchy websites seizing on concern about Franklin to grab some cheap page views? For sure. That’s the web at its worst. But at its best, the content connects people and helps them feel a little less alone while pre-mourning the loss of a giant…

 

 

 

 

Posted in Entertainment, International, News, Obituaries0 Comments

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