In 1980 I was a devotee of Bob Dylan, Deep Purple and Pink Floyd. Alternating, and depending on the social context. Together with other guys who wanted to appear rebellious and distinct, we discussed the lyrics of Dylan. On the disco dance floor, we opted for Deep Purple and Pink Floyd, ’cause this allowed dancing either in a very psychedelic manner or in very close physical contact with the dream girls.
The music tracks always were played from tapes, ’cause LPs with US or English music were usually only available for hard currency on the black market. Only very rarely did the East German record industry released a Rock or Pop LP produced with western license (under its own AMIGA label). To get one, you would have to queue for hours, or bribe the shop assistant. And since these LPs with Western music were so sought after, we tried to buy them all, only to have them as a sort of asset and an object for exchange on the black market.
So sometimes in the 80s, an AMIGA LP with Aretha Franklin’s “Greatest Hits” were announced. And although her name did not rang a particular bell in my mind, I activated my network of purchase and indeed managed to get one for 16,10 GDR mark (I think the 10 pence were officially a cultural tax).
But I was wise enough to first play it at home, before offering it on the black market in exchange for some Dylan or Deep Purple single. Because after hearing the first track, Spanish Harlem, and her cover versions of Eleanor Rugby, of Respect and Say a Little Prayer (on the B-side) it was clear to me that I will never give Aretha Franklin “Greatest Hits” away, not for the most precious Bob Dylan, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd or any other music. And so I listened to her marvelous voice again and again. And in this case, without any social context. I didn’t needed anyone to talk about her lyrics, and I did not wanted to dance with others, when Aretha Franklin was playing. Usually I put on her record when I was alone with my thoughts and dreams.
This licenced AMIGA press was quite unique in the sense that the cover artwork was a East German home design. I don’t know who was the artist, but he or she shall be proud to be have created virtually the only Aretha Franklin record cover that can be considered a real graphics artwork, since in contrast to all her Columbia, Atlantic and Arista LPs, this one from East Germany tried a combination of a beautiful portrait, and some graphical lines of tunes, all catching fire. So we can state that a unknown East German artist contributed to the heritage of this great american soul singer.
And there is something that I always wanted to tell to Aretha Franklin: I always found you very very beautiful, even seductive. Even when you grow older and gained a bid of weight, I saw much more beauty in you than the many super styled young singers, like Beyonce or Rihanna, which to me only wanted to compensate with physical attributes for their poor singing qualities.
Its a pity that you died today, and I could never tell you this. But maybe in heaven you will have time to read this post (if you are not to busy with your new job as a lead singer in the angels choir).
PS: I heared that you always hesitated to express any political opinion. But in these years of a right-wing push in the US I have to say this: For me, Aretha Franklin was a representative of the proud, the progressive, the human part of the United States. She was a giant of wisdom, humanity, and will remain as this for the entire mankind. As compared to her, the current D.J.Trump appears like an irrelevant, angry dwarf who will forgotten soon and whom later generations will only remember with disgust.