Aretha Franklin

The weekend papers were full of Aretha Franklin. Now, and only now, we learn that she was both the queen of soul AND the singer who provided black American women with ‘anthems which still ring out and ring true’ – that according to The Observer.

The air-waves are full of the same, as are the splendidly observant tabloids.

It’s a bit like when a famous footie player dies. Headlines scream the loss and news-weary tabloids predict the death of sport as we know it. Twill never be the same. Sport is now officially dead. He/she will never be replaced. Gad!

13 January 1889 – William Cropper dies of a ruptured bowel during a match against the away team, Grimsby Town.
8 April 1907 – Scottish defender Tommy Blackstock collapsed after heading a ball in a game against St. Helens FC and died.
19 February 1916 – Bob Benson of Arsenal dies of a burst blood vessel following a wartime game against Reading.
20 February 2002 - Cristian Neamțu, pronounced dead after suffering a massive brain haemorrhage during a training session in Cyprus.

And the list goes on.

Mind you footie is not quite as dangerous as singing. Alongside the delightful Aretha, the long list of dead pop icons stretches almost as far as Eden. Elvis, Otis, Guthrie and Joplin are just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, I recall that Elvis died on the toilet whilst having a well-earned crap.

I well recall the death of Hendrix. It was 1970 something and I was in a grotty student flat in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove. I can just recall a fellow flat-dwellers birthday or something – or maybe it was just a Friday night – and we had a party. In those pre-FB days parties were spread by word of mouth, often in pubs and at the end of a good night out.

‘Fancy coming back to Balliol Street. There’s a party on and there’s loads of birds invited.’ Invited, was of course the emotive word. Invited does not equate with coming, or being there or indeed present. In this case there were loads of guys and, unbeknown to me, the bathroom had been taken over by a local prostitute. Don’t ask me why.

Anyway, after turning a few tricks, the semi-naked lady emerged to find me waiting my turn for the loo. ‘Oh no, I can’t do you’ she said. ‘After all your girlfriend was at school with me’. I have to admit that I had no idea at the time that sex was for sale in my bathroom. All I needed was a piss. I have occasionally dined out on the story.

I suppose it’s the same with pop music. Once the fat lady sings, the story goes on and on and on …

Duncan Harley is author of The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire and the forthcoming The Little History of Aberdeenshire.

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