Singapore musicians pay tribute to Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin

Flowers and mementos are left at a growing memorial at Aretha Franklin's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, on Aug 16, 2018.
Flowers and mementos are left at a growing memorial at Aretha Franklin's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, on Aug 16, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - American Queen Of Soul Aretha Franklin, with her iconic body of work, made an impact on artists worldwide, including many in the local music industry here.

Singer Alemay Fernandez says that Franklin, who died from pancreatic cancer on Aug 16, was the "first diva", and describes her death as "a devastating loss for music and humanity".

"She made me believe that it didn't matter where you came from or what your circumstances were, you could conquer the world by being exactly you who are and sticking to what you believed in," Fernandez says.

"There is no vocalist today that wasn't inspired and empowered by her majesty. I am so grateful to have been able to grow up witnessing her greatness and learning how to be assertive but doing it with poise and grace. We owe her everything."

Veteran singer Jacintha Abisheganaden describes every song by Franklin as "a vocal masterpiece" and admires her decades-long work ethic.

"You just couldn't listen to her without it becoming a full-on celebration of life, even simple songs. That was her trademark and she owned it. Gospel roots are hard to shake because it teaches you to sing everything with 300 per cent conviction."

Singer Rani Singam grew up listening to Franklin's music on the radio and describes her as one of the greatest singers of all time.

"She is the embodiment of soul. She has a natural way of singing which was perfectly poised with just the right balance of power and control. She could sing the phonebook and make it a hit."

Jazz veteran Jeremy Monteiro recalls how artists like Franklin influenced the way he played blues and soul music, especially when he did session work for pop artists back in the 1970s and 1980s.

"There are a few cornerstone artists in pop and soul such as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin. Aretha Franklin, in my opinion, stylistically and musically, 'gave birth' to female singers such as Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Beyoncé and Mary J. Blige, among many others."

 
 
 
 

Danny Loong, the co-founder of Timbre Group, is planning a tribute show for Franklin some time in September at blues and roots nightspot Barber Shop By Timbre.

"Aretha Franklin is the epitome of African American music, combining heart-wrenching blues, uplifting soul, classy jazz and hopeful gospel to effectively to express her stories, and the feelings and struggle on her people," says Loong, who is also the guitarist and keyboardist of blues and roots rock band Raw Earth. "She is an inspiration for the world of music fans and musicians like me, who at times have to put on her records or watch her videos to remind myself how it's done."

Home-grown band Alex & the P.L.F. Connection played a whole set of Franklin's songs at Beerfest Asia 2017, and will play tunes like Respect and the late singer's version of A Song for You (1974) at the upcoming Beerfest on Sept 2.

The group's singer Alexandra Hsieh, says that Franklin was more than just a soul singer. "Everything that she does has an impact on her community and that is why she is always a role model for me. We can no longer be just performers, we have to embrace everything in life and stand up for what we believe through our music."

Singapore-based band The Souls regularly play Franklin's songs in their repertoire, which focuses on 1960s southern soul artists who recorded in American cities Memphis and Muscle Shoals.

Says the band's guitarist, Daniel Feiler: "When we talk about that style of music, Aretha Franklin was the queen. One her famous songs, Respect, was originally by Otis Redding and it was interesting because he was a black man from the segregated south. But when she sang it as a woman, it meant a whole lot more."

The Souls will play Franklin's famous songs like Chain Of Fools (1968) and I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You) (1967) at their upcoming shows that includes a set at Hero's, a live music venue and sports bar on Aug 30, as well as at Beerfest.