“Her voice has been the cornerstone of every major event of my life!” Said, the lady in the lobby of the theatre as she talked on her cell phone!
Okay! I was doin’ a little ear hustlin’ yesterday. You see, I decided to stop down on an otherwise busy Saturday afternoon to experience Aretha Franklin’s “Amazing Grace” at my favorite movie house, Oakland’s jewel, the. opulent “Grand Lake Theatre.” Aferall, I heard so much about how the Queen of Soul blocked the release of the film of live recording of her chart busting gospel album “Amazing Grace!” We’ve all heard about the terrible glitch that caused the audio to become out of sync! But thanks to modern technology, the pristine sound of Aretha’s voice was AMAZING and and her demeanor, nothing less than graceful.
Filmed at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles in 1972 and for two hours, I was swept up—Not in a concert but as Rev. James Cleveland said, a worship experience! There she was a young Aretha Franklin, who did not crack a smile until the the second song “What A Friend We have in Jesus.” I love that way the flick went back and forth from the rehearsal to the performance. The behind the scenes convos between the Queen of Soul, checking if the song was still in the key of F- a true pro who spoke the same musical language of these musicians who were hand picked by her. Yeah Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts of the Stones were there. No real big deal. BUT it was something to see the great Clara Ward sitting next to the legendary Rev. CL Franklin! If you have any of the backstory of how close they were then you know how epic it was to have them both together proudly watching Aretha in her element. (Clara, the great songwriter was like a Mother to Aretha and her siblings)
The magnificent voice, the legendary phrasing, her presence, filled with holy honesty and most of all, she brought the power of The Spirit with every note, every trill, arpeggio, every run and moan she sang! We all left the theatre in a state of euphoria. You see, Aretha WAS the universal language. No matter what she sang we understood what she felt. Her interpretations were always oh so real because she gave us something that we could feel. Singers may come and singers may go but there will never, ever be another Aretha Franklin! “Amazing Grace” go see it!