The Queen is dead. Aretha Franklin, born in Detroit 76 years ago, and destined to be acknowledged as ‘The Queen Of Soul’ following her late-‘60s breakthrough, was the daughter of minister C.L. Franklin, developing her vocal prowess in the church, before embarking on a secular career in 1960, when she was 18.
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I wanted to do something to mark the 50th anniversary of 1967 – a truly magical, myth-laden, musical year when so much changed, separating old from new and leading to a seismic cultural shift, especially via the recording industry – artists becoming increasingly ambitious, with pop music no longer regarded as throwaway fodder for the kids, but the great artistic statement of the age.
As I navigated the winding country lanes on my way to the M5 from Minehead, where I’d been playing the Sunday night 1.00am-3.00am closing slot / graveyard shift at the inaugural ‘House Of Fun’ weekender, I was pleased to discover that there was a programme on the radio about the JFK assassination 48 years ago in 1963. Always a subject of fascination, this would help me whittle away half an hour of journey time as I weaved onwards towards the motorway.
Last Saturday evening I was in my hotel room in Ghent, Belgium, trying to catch up on some sleep before a gig there that night. I was awoken by the ringing of the phone, it was someone from the event letting me know what time they’d pick me up to take me for my soundcheck. No sooner had I closed my eyes to grab a couple more hours than my wife, Tracey, called me to break the news that Amy Winehouse had been found dead. Like many others that day I was shocked but not surprised, her death, at just 27 years of age, being something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, many journalists having written her obituary long ago in readiness for this tragic eventuality.