RUSH: Aretha. Ladies and gentlemen, I was 16; I was just starting to work in radio when Aretha Franklin bopped on the scene. I was telling Snerdley, “Everybody’s calling her the Queen of Soul,” and there’s no doubt she was. I think that doesn’t go nearly far enough in describing Aretha Franklin, who she was and what she did, her talents and so forth. She was soul, there was no question. She defined it. Well, she and James Brown, who was the Godfather of Soul. James Brown was the Ambassador of Soul. He wasn’t just the godfather; he was the ambassador.
In fact, James Brown and one of his wives were traveling through Georgia and they were speeding. A trooper pulled them over and James Brown’s wife said, “You can’t arrest him. He’s the Ambassador of Soul. He’s got diplomatic immunity.” It’s a true story. They arrested him. Well, he was the Godfather of Soul. But, Aretha? I mean, Barbra Streisand was envious of Aretha Franklin’s voice. Everybody in music was.
Her talent, her abilities, the range of music she could sing. There’s something else that I think we need to remember and kind of remain in awe of. Aretha Franklin, after having moved there, was from Detroit. There’s a little neighborhood in Detroit that an entrepreneur turned into one of the most powerful, one of the most identifiable, one of the most amazing music industry stories there has ever been. His name was Berry Gordy, and he did Motown. And there were two houses.
If you ever go to Detroit, you gotta drive by these two houses. That was Motown, where the recording studios were. In fact, the Motown artists thought that one of them was better than the other, and as time went on some of the acts only wanted to record in one of those studios because they felt that the sound was just better there, acoustics and everything else. But stop and think of it. You had the Four Tops. You had Gladys Knight & The Pips. You had The Supremes. You had Smokey Robinson. You had Diana Ross.
You had later on the Jackson Five, Marvin Gaye, the Marvelettes… (interruption) No, no. No. What was her name? City Council Detroit, yeah. Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, all in one neighborhood in Detroit, and that’s where Aretha was. She didn’t go with Motown. She went with Atlantic. She was wooed by the great Atlantic executive Ahmet Ertegun, and he signed her to Atlantic, and Gordy had all these other people.
It’s just amazing in one neighborhood of Detroit what came out of there and what to this day still defines American R&B or soul, however you want to describe it. Those Motown hits are still played by everybody. Millennials love them as much as we did when we were kids. Although the early Motown stuff in the sixties, you really need to hear it compressed. You don’t want to hear it on a CD. You need to hear it the way it was mastered and mixed for AM radio back in those days so that it could be heard when you’re driving around in your Ford Mustang convertible with the top down, a ’57 Chevy, or what have you.
But it’s just amazing, and that’s where Aretha Franklin came from. She stood above. It’s hard to say, but she stood above all of it. It is the quintessential American story, Aretha Franklin, and the impact she had, the reach she had, the talent and so forth. So, yeah, she was the Queen of Soul. But, to me, I mean, everywhere you turn in the media, “Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin” it seems not enough. It’s like “right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh.’ That’s not enough. It doesn’t get anywhere near describing what I do, does it?
“Conservative talk show host” Rush Limbaugh.
“Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin.
Yeah, she was that, but she was much, much more.