Queen Of Soul Performing Queen Of Soul Performing
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Queen of Soul And Shade: Aretha Franklin's All-Time Shadiest Moments

Thank you for your music and authenticity, Aretha Franklin. We will miss you.

Aretha Franklin was not only the Queen of Soul, but the Queen of legendary shade. Shade so pervasive that the moon tweeted condolences. Stories have peppered Franklin’s legend and lore, from ignoring other female vocalists to high-level diva antics and long-standing feuds with not only her contemporaries but her actual sisters.

Many such stories were featured in David Ritz’s unauthorized 2014 biography Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin (which Franklin denounced as “Lies, lies, lies and then more lies,”). In the digital age, we’ve watched other unfold in real time.

Since her death, Franklin’s infamous shade and pettiness have been a controversial topic on social media Many argue that celebrating her unflattering side sullies her legacy. It’d be a disservice to her memory not to celebrate her shade; it was a huge part of who she was, and Franklin’s realness played a key part in her incredible artistry. Her behavior wasn’t always rooted in trivial slights or jealousy, either. She didn’t take no mess and wasn’t going to let a slight – perceived or real – go unchecked. Her timing was impeccable and her methods of delivery unmatched, which suggests she knew she was shady, and masterfully so.

Franklin’s former talent agent Ruth Bowen told Ritz that “Falling-outs (were) her specialty,” but legendary session musician and longtime collaborator Billy Preston explained to the biographer why her shade and antics didn’t matter in the long-run: “She can go into her diva act and turn off the world. But on any given night, when that lady sits down at the piano and gets her body and soul all over some righteous song, she’ll scare the sh** out of you.”

Below, we run down some of the Queen’s top moments of royal shade.

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11. Not Allowing Dion’s Part To Go On

For the inaugural VH1 Divas Live in 1998, Gloria Estefan, Shania Twain, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion and Franklin closed the show with “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”. It was meant to be an ensemble performance with surprise guest (and the song’s composer) Carole King, but Franklin led the entire song – since it is her song – and sang over Dion during her part.

10. Demanding Respect From Luther

The two worked together on Franklin’s “comeback” album Jump to It (1982), and then again on her album Get It Right (1983).

Vandross was excited to work with an idol, but deflated by their first phone call, a formal conversation where she introduced herself as “Ms. Franklin” and referred to him as “Mr. Vandross.”

He recounted the call to biographer Ritz, “The Aretha that I had heard through my entire childhood on the radio – warm and down-home – wasn’t the Aretha I heard on the phone.” The formality and tension continued into the studio. “There were a few sharp disagreements. Aretha doesn’t like her vocals critiqued – and understandably.”

Franklin’s version in Aretha: From These Roots aligned with Vandross on that point. "… Luther wanted to tell me how to sing when it was me whom he had learned much about how to sing. My point was simple: If he wanted to tell the artists how to sing, why didn't he sing it himself?”

Ultimately, Vandross won that shade-off. As they argued over the intro for “Jump to It”, he got the last word.

‘”Who's the one with the most hits here?’" she asked. Of course, the answer was her. I just had one; she had dozens. ‘But who's the one with the latest hit?’ I asked. She didn't answer. She stormed out."

As is the case with many of Franklin’s feuds, this wasn’t based on lack of respect for talent. In fact, it was usually spawned by the opposite. Franklin concluded in her autobiography, “We have a lot of mutual respect for each other. Even when we are not talking, we are still cool.”

9. Taking – And Owning – Dionne Warwick’s Song

During Franklin’s early career at Columbia, she was positioned as a jazz and blues artist, but she wanted to be a pop star. Meanwhile, Dionne Warwick was one of the more successful pop vocalists of the ’60s thanks to composers Burt Bacharach and Hal David. By several accounts, Franklin was jealous. Once she was established as a soul and R&B star, Franklin threw down a sonic gauntlet, covering Warwick’s hit “I Say a Little Prayer for You” just a year after release.

Where Warwick’s original version was mellow and shiny, Franklin’s was emotive and gritty. Adding insult to injury, it featured Cissy Houston, Warwick’s aunt, and Whitney’s mom, on background vocals. While it didn’t reach the same heights as Warwick’s on the charts, Franklin’s became the definitive version – even for Bacharach and David. Bacharach told NPR in 2010, “It’s a better record than the record we made.”

8. Letting Wendy Williams Know She Ain't A Game

In 2011 Franklin sat down for a one-on-one with Wendy Williams, and while Williams – known for her own shade – was deferential and respectful, she caught a couple of light jabs.

7. Mixing Down Mavis Staples’ Vocal

Mavis Staples was maybe Franklin’s closest contemporary, vocally; they both had that good ol’ church anointing on their voices. When they paired up for two songs on Franklin’s One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism (1987), Franklin got a little shook, according to Erma’s account in Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin.“

Aretha listened to those duets, she was convinced that Mavis's voice overwhelmed hers. Singing with the one other gospel singer who could rightfully be called her equal, Aretha felt threatened. I told her she had nothing to worry about, that the two of them sounded great together," Erma said. "Their voices were completely complementary. But Aretha didn't hear it that way. She put Mavis's voice so low in the mix that you could barely hear it. It became an ordeal and caused a serious falling-out.”

6. Making It Clear “Queen Of Soul” Is A Reign, Not A Term

Natalie Cole’s first hits were songs originally written for and passed on by Franklin. The media immediately compared the two singers, speculating that Cole might steal the Queen of Soul crown. Cole was also the first artist other than Franklin to win the Grammy for Best R&B Performance Female with “This Will Be”, ending Franklin’s eight-year streak.

Cole idolized Franklin but was met with coldness during their first in-person encounter. She told Ritz, “The first time I saw Aretha was at an industry banquet. She gave me an icy stare and then turned her back on me. It took me weeks to recover. I mean, this is the woman whom I revere! She began this make-believe feud that I still don't understand. I give her the highest respect—then, now, and always.”

Franklin, understandably, wasn’t thrilled at the comparisons with someone newer and younger. She told Jet in 1977, “It's easy for a singer to sometimes pick up on another singer's sound, but that's just copying. It's really a compliment that she sounds like me on some songs. In fact, when I listen to her I hear little things that remind me of myself at the beginning of my career…I don't think she has the ability or the equipment to take anything from me and I'd say that to Natalie herself.”

5. It Doesn't Matter If We're Real Sisters

Franklin’s sisters Erma and Carolyn were also talented vocalists, groomed under father C.L. Franklin’s music ministry along with Aretha. They worked with her often (Carolyn wrote “Ain’t No Way”), but each had their own big career opportunities …that Franklin blocked. Erma shared that Curtis Mayfield originally tapped Carolyn to record the Sparkle soundtrack (1976), but once Aretha got wind, she jacked the project.

“She should have let Carolyn sing those Sparkle songs and then, afterward, do her own record with Curtis [Mayfield]. But somehow Aretha got a copy of the songs. They were so good that she felt she had to sing them."

Erma also shared with Ritz that Aretha quickly shut down discussion of Erma getting a record deal with Columbia’s sister label, Epic. "The man also said that I would be on Epic, which was a different brand than Columbia. They were part of the same company but I'd have my own producers and an identity separate from Aretha. I thought she would be thrilled. She wasn't. She threw a fit. She told Daddy that she didn't want me on Epic, that it would hurt her career and that people would be confused by too many singing Franklin sisters."

4. Keeping It Moving, Literally

The source of Franklin’s (perhaps one-sided) feud with Patti Labelle is unknown, but Franklin took it all the way to the White House. At the 2014 Women of Soul celebration, the Queen entered with much-deserved fanfare, making her fur-clad way to the stage through a sea of adoring subjects. When Labelle reached out to take her hand, Franklin hit her with an elusive maneuver so smooth you almost heard an audible “You thought.”

3. Asserting Her Royal Title With Tina Turner… And Beyonce

Introducing Tina Turner for a 2008 Grammy awards performance, Beyoncè exclaimed, “Give it up for the queen!” Not the “Queen of Soul”, not the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll” (which is Turner’s moniker). Simply, “the queen.” Watching from home, Franklin took offense, and released an official statement: "I am not sure of whose toes I may have stepped on or whose ego I may have bruised between the Grammy writers and Beyoncé, however, I dismissed it as a cheap shot for controversy," Franklin’s press release read. She added an extra bit of cloud cover: "In addition to that, I thank the Grammys and the voting academy for my 20th Grammy and love to Beyoncé anyway."

Turner, however, was unbothered. When USA Today asked her to respond to Franklin's statement, she laughed it off. "She’s the queen of soul, and I’m the queen of rock ‘n’ roll… Her ego must be so big to think she was the only one."

2. Gowns, Beautiful Gowns

In 2014 the Wall Street Journal inadvertently gifted the world with one of the greatest gifs and catchphrases of the digital age when they asked Franklin for quick-fire reactions to current pop divas. She was positive about Adele (“Good singer”) and Whitney Houston (“She had a gift”), but employed what we’ll call a diplomatic approach for some others.

Alicia Keys: “Good performer. Good writer, producer.”

Taylor Swift: “Great gowns. Beautiful gowns.”

Nicki Minaj: “I’m gonna pass on that one.”

1. Facts Via Fax

At Whitney Houston’s funeral in 2012, Dionne Warwick, acting as master of ceremonies for the services, commented on Franklin’s absence. “Re's not here, but she is here,” Warwick remarked. “She loves Whitney as if she were born to her. She is her godmother.” In fact, Franklin had been referred to as Houston’s godmother for years without denial or rebuttal, including during the 2011 Wendy Williams interview referenced above.

Yet for some reason, after mulling it over for five years, Franklin decided to go on record that she was not Houston’s godmother. She sent a fax to the Associated Press accusing Warwick of libel. Franklin said in a follow-up phone interview, “She blatantly lied on me...fully well knowing what she was doing.” She also expressed that she’d been “far too busy” over the years “to be anyone’s godmother.” The statement was likely triggered by Franklin and Warwick seeing each other the week prior at the premiere of Clive Davis’ documentary Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives (Warwick signed with diva-maker Davis and Arista a year before Franklin). Franklin said Warwick tried to hug her when they saw each other. Her response? “I said, ‘oh hell no. You couldn’t be serious.’”

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CIRCA 1980: Photo of Bill Withers
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Bill Withers' Greatest Hits: Remixed, Sampled And Covered

The recent loss of legends in jazz, soul and classical music have saddened the music industry and reminded us of their touching gifts to music. The passing of Manu Dibango, Krzysztof Penderecki, Ellis Marsalis Jr., Bucky Pizzarelli and Alan Merrill brought endless tributes from peers and fans with the recent loss of soul singer-songwriter Bill Withers doing the same.

With a mirage of hits, the iconic songwriter left his mark on music with the release of his debut album Just As I Am in 1971. "Ain't No Sunshine" put a spotlight on his songwriting while 1977's "Lovely Day" reminded the industry of his signature vocals. Withers released eight studio albums, one live album and garnered three Grammys for his powerful songs that gave hope and love to fans to this day.

Hip-hop and R&B have gained the most from Withers as his music went on to inspire records like "No Diggity" by BLACKStreet, "Roses" by Kanye West and other songs from UGK, Dr. Dre, Jill Scott and more.

Take a look at some of Withers' finest tunes covered, remixed and sampled below.

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8. “Lovely Day” | Menagerie (1977)

Sampled On: T.W.D.Y., “Player’s Holiday” | Derty Werk (1999) LunchMoneyLewis - “It's Gonna Be A Lovely Day” feat. Aminè | Pets 2 Soundtrack (2019) Swizz Beatz - “Take A Picture” |One Man Band (2007)

Standout: T.W.D.Y., “Player’s Holiday” | Derty Werk (1999)

Short for "The Whole Damn Yay," the group used Withers' sample while throwing a splash of The Bay's laid back flavor. With cameos from future legends like E-40 and Ray Luv, the single already embodied the best of R&B and hip-hop with guest verses from Too Short, Mac Mall and Otis & Shug. The mimosas and yacht are also a great touch.

Covered By: Jill Scott, The Original Jill Scott from the Vault Vol. 1 (2011) Alt-J, This Is All Yours (2014) Robert Glasper Experiment, Black Radio 2 (2013) Kirk Franklin, The Nu Nation Project (1998)

Standout: Kirk Franklin, The Nu Nation Project (1998)

Who was going to beat a chorus singing to the lordt? Franklin's take on the classic gives us stirring gospel and appreciation for Withers and God. There are plenty of covers that have lifted the same vocals as Withers, but the ones listed have put their unique spin on the track.

7. “Ain't No Sunshine” | Just As I Am (1971)

Sampled On: DMX - “No Sunshine” | Exit Wounds Soundtrack (2001) Lil B - “Up And Down” | Based Jam (2012) 2Pac- "Soulja's Story" |  2Pacalypse Now (1991)

Standout: DMX - “No Sunshine” | Exit Wounds Soundtrack (2001)

"No Sunshine" served as the only single from DMX's film alongside Steven Seagal, which gave everyone the perfect backdrop to the movie and X's intricate storytelling. Both the original and flipped version points out the dark elements of our lives. Withers penned the song after watching the film 1962 movie Days of Wine and Roses, he pondered over the toxicity in his life. "Sometimes you miss things that weren't particularly good for you," he said in 2004 to SongFacts. "It's just something that crossed my mind from watching that movie, and probably something else that happened in my life that I'm not aware of."

Covered By: Soul For Real | Candy Rain (1994) Michael Jackson | Got to Be There (1972) The Boris Gardiner Happening | Is What's Happening (1973) The Temptations | Solid Rock (1972)

Standout: Michael Jackson | Got to Be There (1972)

At 14, the future King of Pop gave a riveting cover of Withers' hit for his debut album, Got To Be There. From his vocal control throughout the track to the instrumentation, his cover takes the song to another level of heartbreak.

6. "Grandma's Hands” | Just As I Am (1971)

Sampled On: BLACKstreet - “No Diggity” feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen | Another Level (1996) Big K.R.I.T. - “I Gotta Stay” | K.R.I.T. Wuz Here (2010) Brother Ali - “Waheedah's Hands” | Champion (2004)

Standout: BLACKstreet - “No Diggity” feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen | Another Level (1996)

R&B heads are well aware of BLACKstreet's neverending ballads and the genius of Teddy Riley. But the pivot of their sound for their sophomore album Another Level was due to Withers and the William “Stylez” Stewart. Speaking to Fact Mag in 2017, the creator of New Jack Swing gave credit to Stylez for bringing him the sample of "Grandma's Hands."

“If he hadn’t played that sample for me, there would never be a ‘No Diggity’ And if he didn’t write it according to the melody I gave him so it would sound that way because I wanted it to sound funky,” he said. “I wanted it to be appealing to everyone, but mostly to women. I wanted every woman to feel like they were the ‘No Diggity’ girl and that song was about them and it came across. And now, still, today, that song plays and people are on that dancefloor.”

Covered By: Gil Scott-Heron, Reflections (1981) Merry Clayton, Merry Clayton (1971) Barbra Streisand, Butterfly (1974)

Standout: Gil Scott-Heron, Reflections (1981)

Gil Scott-Heron's version of the soul classic reminded us of his versatile talents. From spoken word to his vocal abilities, the Godfather of rap music always came through with his own sound and style. Reflections was one of four albums the late artist dropped in the 80s with critics looking to it as one of his finest projects. Other cuts from the album included "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" and "B Love."

5. "Use Me" | Still Bill (1972)

Sampled On: Kendrick Lamar - “Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"  | Good kid, Maad City (2012) J. Cole- "Dollar And A Dream II" | The Warm-Up (2009) Leela James - “So Good" | Fall For You (2014) UGK - "Use Me Up" | The Southern Way (1992)

Standout: Kendrick Lamar - “Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"  | Good kid, Maad City (2012)

Lamar's take on "Use Me" blended right into the themes of his debut album, Good kid, Maad City allowing the artist to create another world on the project. To make things even better, Lamar also sampled Al Green's "I'm Glad You're Mine" for the track.

Covered By: Grace Jones, Indigo Nights, Live (2008) Mick Jagger feat. Lenny Kravitz, Wandering Spirit  (2004) Issac Hayes, Dr. Dolittle Soundtrack (1998)

Standout: Mick Jagger feat. Lenny Kravitz, Wandering Spirit (2004)

On his third solo album, Jagger linked with Rick Rubin to test his creative energy, allowing him to work with Lenny Kravitz on their version of "Use Me." Colliding worlds was one thing but to hear Kravitz's vocals come in on the bridge, set the track apart from the rest.

4. “Kissing My Love” | Still Bill (1972)

Sampled On: J. Cole - “The Cut Off" featuring kiLL Edward  | KOD (2018) Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride" featuring Snoop Dogg, RC and Jewell | The Chronic (1992) Masta Ace- "Movin On" | Take A Look Around (1990) Master P- "Bastard Child" | The Ghettos Tryin To Kill Me! | 1994

Standout: Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride" featuring Snoop Dogg, RC and Jewell | The Chronic (1992)

"Kissing My Love" is one of most sampled from Withers catalog, thanks to its feverish drums. It's also why it fits into Dr. Dre's single and the G-funk era.

3. Grover Washington's “Just The Two of Us” featuring Bill Withers | Winelight (1981)

Sampled/Covered On:  Will Smith - “Just The Two of Us” | Big Willie Style (1997) Eminem- "Just The Two of Us" | Slim Shady EP (1997) Keri Hilson- "Pretty Girl Rock" | No Boys Allowed (2010)

Standout: Will Smith - “Just The Two of Us” | Big Willie Style (1997)

Touching and soulful, Smith's dedication to his eldest son Trey is just too cute for words.

2. “Let It Be” | Just As I Am  (1967)

The Original: The Beatles - “Let It Be” | Let It Be (1968)

"Let It Be" is a pretty special record. Aretha Franklin recorded a version a year before the release of The Beatles' version and Withers gave his take on the record in the 70s. Slightly faster, his upbeat take on "Let It Be" just hits different.

1. “Rosie” | Menagerie Re-Issue (1977)

Sampled On: Kanye West - “Roses” |  Late Registration (2005)

As the somber part of Late Registration, "Roses" brings us into Kanye's world where he contemplates the mortality of a loved one. It's a sentimental take on the sample and one of the artist's most underrated songs. It's also a hidden gem for Withers as it isn't featured on Menagerie's LP. It was added as a bonus track on

Enjoy the jams in playlist form below.

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Remain Calm: 5 Ways To Curve Negative Effects Of Coronavirus Isolation

Self-isolation during the coronavirus outbreak seems to be best practice in keeping our families and peers safe but it's also a shift in our normal social behavior. As millions of families around the country get adjusted to self-isolation, the state of our mental health and how our bodies react to the practice are changing by the day, especially lower-income and marginalized groups.

Speaking with Wired, John Vincent, a clinical psychologist at the University of Houston, shared how apathetic behavior can rise to the forefront, making space for anxiety and depression.

“People start getting lethargic when they don’t have positive inputs into their small worlds,” Vincent says. “We can expect depression to kick in, and depression and anxiety are kissing cousins.”

But the biggest reason behind the uneasiness isn't the self-isolation but just how long it will last. Details of COVID-19 are changing by the day with the most cases now coming out of New York. Yet, there's still little to no information on what happens next.

“Open, transparent, consistent communication is the most important thing governments and organizations can do: Make sure people understand why they are being quarantined first and foremost, how long it is expected to last,” Samantha Brooks of King’s College London told the outlet. “A huge factor in the negative psychological impact seems to be confusion about what's going on, not having clear guidelines, or getting different messages from different organizations.”

Uncertainty hitting low income and marginalized groups is also a problem within itself. As virtual parties and celebrities opening up on social media happen on a daily, there are people who might not access fun distractions on the web.

“Some people have posited technology as a means of connecting people, but lower-income groups might not even have FaceTime or Skype or minutes on their phone,” Thomas Cudjoe, a geriatrician researching the intersection of social connections and aging at Johns Hopkins University says. “People take that for granted, using their devices can be a strain on people’s incomes.”

To make self-isolation less than a bore or a daunting task, experts suggest creating a schedule to dictate control in your home.

1. Work It Out

Gyms are closed, but your home can be transformed into a personal training center. Use heavy bags for weights and if you can, create a playlist of workouts on YouTube. For those who have memberships for Blink or Peloton, the platforms have streamed their workouts on apps.

2. Mindful Meditation

Meditation isn't about dumping your thoughts, it's about staying aware and mindful. AQUA has developed online that leverages the power of "Mindful Meditation and Mobility Movements" for flexibility and fluidity in the body. Classes are free of charge but feel free to donate.

3. Take It Back To High School

Give your friends a call or indulge in a FaceTime party. Feel free to use the Wifi in your home to reduce the amount of data used on your phone. Lala Anthony held a too-cute FT birthday party for writer Kiyonna Anthony with a 70s theme. You can also find creative ways to hop on the phone with friends and family instead of constantly chatting about 'rona.

 

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We made the best out of our quarantine situation🎉‼️FACETIME 70s Party💃🏽🎉HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY NIECE @kiyonnathewriter ❤️❤️💃🏽💃🏽SHOUT OUT TO ALL MY ARIES ♈️ MAKE THE BEST OF IT!!!😘

A post shared by ℒᎯ ℒᎯ (@lala) on Mar 23, 2020 at 7:14pm PDT

4. Start A Journal

Journals just aren't for kids. The practice not only gives you something to do, but it fuels creativity and a new level of self-awareness. Former First Lady Michelle Obama recently developed Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice, with over 150 inspiring questions and quotes that connect to key themes in her memoir. The journal will also help bring readers to terms with the importance of family and personal reflections as well as the goals they'd like to make a reality.

5. Have a Dance Party or Enjoy Lo-Fi Beats To Quarantine To

If you don't have data or battery power to watch a virtual DJ party, make your own. If you have to pull out your record player, do it! You can also hop on your favorite streaming service and create a playlist all your own.

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From Teen Sensation To Vocal Bible: Brandy's 15 Best Songs

September 27, 2019 marked the 25th anniversary of the multiplatinum self-titled debut album by one of R&B’s greatest voices, Brandy Rayana Norwood, or simply Brandy. She was already well on her way to stardom prior to her debut as a background vocalist for Immature and one of the stars of the short-lived ABC series, Thea. However, it was the album Brandy that set her on the path to tremendous success.

Since officially bursting onto the scene in 1994 sporting her well-known braided crown of glory, she has been a force to be reckoned with. She was handpicked by her idol, the late Whitney Houston, to portray the role of the first Black Cinderella in the 1997 film Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella. Her show Moesha was one of the longest-running black sitcoms. Brandy was also a CoverGirl in 1999 and became a friend of Barbie that same year when Mattel released the Brandy Doll. In music, she’s released six studio albums, sold more than 40 million records worldwide, headlined three world tours, and won more than 30 awards including seven Billboard Music Awards, a Grammy and the Soul Train Lady of Soul Award. Brandy deserves her flowers.

Let’s check out the top 15 songs that helped solidify Brandy as your favorite singer’s favorite singer (just ask Solange) and earned her the title of the “Vocal Bible.”

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