Aretha Franklin breathed jazz.
The legendary Queen of Soul ignited every stage with her radiating mezzo-soprano voice and youthful energy, so when news of the 76-year-old's death broke on August 16, many people felt an integral piece of history had vanished.
It did not matter if she was singing gospel music at church or performing with a jazz ensemble at Chicago’s Ravinia Festival, Franklin always embodied soul.
She explained her philosophy simply: “If a song’s about something I’ve experienced or that could’ve happened to me, it’s good. But if it’s alien to me, I couldn’t lend anything to it. Because that’s what soul is all about.”
But Franklin wasn’t just a singer—she was a poet. Her music moved people to love, to laugh, and to feel the light of God.
“Franklin had the ability to elevate pretty much anything she sang,” said senior English major Emily Freville.
Whether she was singing an original piece or covering another artist’s music, Franklin brought it to life by pouring soul into it.
She performed at the White House, on church stages and in colossal music venues and was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. But despite record success and international popularity, Franklin never lost sight of her simple love for music.
“I’ve always loved the movement of Aretha’s voice,” said EC senior Sandy Sanchez. She remembers listening to Franklin’s classic tracks in elementary music classes. “Jazz was never my favorite style of music, but something about her presentation was really unique and timeless.”
Franklin’s enduring legacy influenced decades of collegiate music ensembles. The Elmhurst College Jazz Band was formed in 1968 at the height of Franklin’s fame and a deeply experimental time when rock ‘n’ roll, blues, and folk music gained prominence in mainstream culture.
Although EC’s jazz ensemble doesn’t focus exclusively on Franklin’s music, her contribution to the field is widely recognized.
Brandon De Jesus, news director at WRSE Elmhurst College Radio, feels a deep reverence for the legendary songstress.
“One of the first songs I ever heard in my life was R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I'm definitely going to miss her,” De Jesus said. “Her voice will be heard for generations to come.”