Barack and Michelle Obama issued a moving tribute to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, following news of the singer’s death. In the lengthy statement, they parsed how Franklin was an integral part of America’s fiber and a reflection of the American dream.
“America has no royalty,” they wrote. “But we do have a chance to earn something more enduring. Born in Memphis and raised in Detroit, Aretha Franklin grew up performing gospel songs in her father’s congregation. For more than six decades since, every time she sang, we were all graced with a glimpse of the divine.
“Through her compositions and unmatched musicianship, Aretha helped define the American experience,” the couple continued. “In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade – our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. She helped us feel more connected to each other, more hopeful, more human. And sometimes she helped us just feel about everything else and dance.
“Aretha may have passed on to a better place, but the gift of her music remains to inspire us all,” they concluded. “May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace. Michelle and I send our prayers and warmest sympathies to her family and all those moved by her song.”
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“Mourning the loss today of Aretha Franklin who shared her spirit and talent with the world,” wrote the former secretary of state. “She deserves not only our RESPECT but also our lasting gratitude for opening our eyes, ears and hearts. Rest in eternal peace, my friend.”
Earlier in the week, when the singer was still in ailing health, the former president wrote that he was celebrating her life. “Like people all around the world, Hillary and I are thinking about Aretha Franklin tonight & listening to her music that has been such an important part of our lives the last 50 years,” he wrote. “We hope you’ll lift her up by listening and sharing her songs that have meant the most to you.”
Franklin performed “I Dreamed a Dream” at a pre-inauguration concert for Bill Clinton in 1993. (She did the same for Jimmy Carter in 1977.) In 2009, she delivered a stirring, unforgettable rendition of “America” at President Obama’s inauguration.