Monday, 20 August 2018

My Top Ten Songs About Aretha Franklin

Following on from my Top Ten Aretha Songs... here's ten songs that namecheck the Queen of Soul and pay tribute...

10. Okkervil River - Famous Tracheotomies

The opening track to the new Okkervil River album does exactly what it says on the tin. It's a  song about famous people who've had tracheotomies. No, wait, it's a hell of a lot better than that sounds!

No, Aretha never had a tracheotomy. However...

Mary Wells, she was known as Motown's Queen
But laryngeal cancer left her unable to sing
They tried radiation, multiple surgeries
But she didn't have insurance and lost almost everything
Poor thing
But Diana Ross helped with her bills
Aretha Franklin tried her very best to help out Mary Wells
And Dionne Warwick did all she could do
And Mary Wells, she pulled through
For one more year or two

9. Le Tigre - Hot Topic

A song about all the different artists who inspired Le Tigre. Aretha shares some pretty offbeat company in these lyrics...

Gertrude Stein, Marlon Riggs, Billie Jean King, Ut, DJ Cuttin Candy, David Wojnarowicz, Melissa York, Nina Simone, Ann Peebles, Tammy Hart, The Slits, Hanin Elias, Hazel Dickens, Cathy Sissler, Shirley Muldowney, Urvashi Vaid, Valie Export, Cathy Opie, James Baldwin, Diane Dimassa, Aretha Franklin, Joan Jett, Mia X, Krystal Wakem, Kara Walker, Justin Bond, Bridget Irish, Juliana Lueking, Cecilia Dougherty, Ariel Skrag, The Need, Vaginal Creme Davis, Alice Gerard, Billy Tipton, Julie Doucet, Yayoi Kusama, Eileen Myles

8. Parliament - Chocolate City

In which George Clinton plans his ideal government...

And don't be surprised if Ali is in the White House
Reverend Ike, Secretary of the Treasury
Richard Pryor, Minister of Education
Stevie Wonder, Secretary of fine arts
And Miss Aretha Franklin, the First Lady

7. Dar Williams - Midnight Radio

Here's to Patti
And Tina
And Yoko
And Nona
And Nico
And me
And all the strange rock and rollers
You know you're doing alright
So hold on to each other
You gotta hold on tonight

6. Drive-By Truckers - Ronnie & Neil

A song about Muscle Shoals, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Neil Young, Otis Redding... and Aretha.

The history of Southern music in one 5 minute song.

5. Graham Parker - Obsessed With Aretha

You get a lot of girl singers obsessed with Aretha
You get a lot of little swingers wishin' they could be her
Some of those sisters can rock and roll
All god's children gotta little bit of soul
But not that much... no no no, not that much

4. Scritti Politti - Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)

Each time I go to bed I pray like Aretha Franklin

I never understood how exactly that made one a Wood Beez. Or what exactly a Wood Beez was.

3. Cat Power - Aretha, Sing One For Me

Me and my baby, we had a big fight
We ended our romance the same night
In an angry mood, he walked out the door
I said this song's going to an Aretha Franklin show

Hey, Aretha, sing one for me
Let him know our life's in misery
Will you sing a song that will touch his heart
And make him sorry that we are apart

2. Eric Burdon & The Animals - River Deep Mountain High

In which Eric and the lads rework Phil Spector's classic into a psychedelic monster, changing one specific line in the process...

I love you baby, like Aretha Franklin needs to sing

1. Rumer - Aretha

Possibly the most gorgeous tribute song ever written?


  1. Wood Beez is ace- but always confused me lyrically.

  2. Yes, the most gorgeous tribute song ever, in my opinion.

    As for Wood Beez, will have to look into that one. And, didn’t know what became of Mary Wells but doubt if she would have really wanted it all documented in a song like that.

    A fine TopTen as ever.

  3. Speaking of songs about Aretha Franklin, while I was reading your post I just realised one that I'd completely forgotten - "Hey Nineteen" by Steely Dan.

    "Hey Nineteen
    That's 'Retha Franklin
    She don't remember
    The Queen of Soul
    It's hard times befallen
    The soul survivors
    She thinks I'm crazy
    But I'm just growing old..."

    1. Very good call. Wish I'd thought of that one.


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