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Here is why Aretha Franklin, the original diva, was a LGBTI icon

Here is why Aretha Franklin, the original diva, was a LGBTI icon

RIP Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin was the original diva.

The Queen of Soul, her hits like Respect and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman defined the sound of an era. She released 16 albums.

She died in her home aged 76, it was announced today (16 August).

To so many black LGBTI men and women, and people regardless of race, she was like a grandmother.

Aretha celebrated us. She represented civil rights and female empowerment. A woman who knew her own damn mind.

Aretha Franklin made us feel proud

Otis Redding originally made Respect in order to take on his marital problems.

Aretha turned the song into a universal declaration of pride: for blacks, for women, for LGBTI people.

Many black and soul artists credit Aretha Franklin for their careers.

Luther Vandross idolized Aretha. He ended up writing and producing her 1982 hit Jump To It.

Without Aretha, we wouldn’t have Whitney or Mariah.

Many of her songs, like Say A Little Prayer, Think, Baby Love and Son of a Preacher Man, are all classics. They all connect love, break-ups, finding your own voice.

Craig Washington, a sexual health rights activist, named Aretha as his own icon.

‘As an HIV-positive older black gay man…I chose Aretha as my principal muse,’ he said.

‘Twenty years ago, I named my first HIV prevention program after her house classic remake “Deeper Love.”

‘The name expressed what I wanted black gay men to rediscover and celebrate in congregation.’

Performing for a same-sex couple at their wedding

She knew of her influence on LGBTI people, and returned the favor.

Recently, she performed at an Elton John AIDS benefit.

While she seemed fragile, having battled illness recently, she took to the stage in a sparkly dress and white stole. And she sang. The crowds loved it.

Elton remembered: ‘I was fortunate enough to spend time with her and witness her last performance – a benefit for Elton John AIDS Foundation at St John The Divine Cathedral. She was obviously unwell, and I wasn’t sure she could perform. But Aretha did and she raised the roof.

‘She sang and played magnificently, and we all wept. We were witnessing the greatest soul artist of all time. I adored her and worshipped her talent. God bless her.

‘My condolences to all her family and friends. We shared the same birthday – and that meant so much to me.

‘The whole world will miss her but will always rejoice in her remarkable legacy. The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.’

And very recently, privately, she performed at a gay wedding.

Bill White and Bryan Eure were married by Prop 8 attorney David Boies.

The wedding, which drew guests like Barbara Walters, Gayle King and former New York City mayor David Dinkins, had a very special performance.

Aretha performed renditions of I Will Always Love You, I Say A Little Prayer and Respect.

Ultimately, she will be remembered for her voice. Her all-powerful voice that reached millions.

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