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It’s like Aretha Franklin, but I have an “L.”

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Seems like I’ve been saying that my entire life. When anyone has difficulty pronouncing or spelling my name, I reference Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. And as soon as I do, invariably the person’s face lights up and their eyes go wide with recognition, no matter what age or ethnicity. Aretha was and still is loved around the world. I remember hearing that she was nearing death and my heart like everyone else’s was saddened. I prayed for a miracle, but I left the outcome in God’s hands, knowing that he has given each of us an appointed time to leave here.

This morning while on my way to film a commercial, I learned that Aretha had passed away. Normally I dance in the car on the way to set, but today was bittersweet. The only music blasting was Aretha’s mega hits like Respect, Natural Woman, I Say a Little Prayer, Chain of Fools, songs that I listened and danced to as a little girl and into adulthood. Oh, what a woman, oh what a life, oh what a legacy.

When I think about all the contributions Aretha has made it takes my breath away. As her music played, and tears trickled down my cheeks, I recounted moments in her life that stood out to me—the top one—Aretha singing at President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Amazing. I am so glad she lived to not only witness the first African American president being sworn into office, but to sing for him. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. My mind went from the steps of the U.S. Capitol to Aretha dancing and singing in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. She could do it all.

Later today, I had a conversation with my grandmother and together we shared our memories of Aretha, and toward the end of our conversation I had an idea. What if God is having a fall concert and while rehearsing, Whitney Houston said, “Something isn’t right, something is missing.” And then Michael Jackson said, “You’re right, Whitney.” And then Prince said, “I know what’s missing.” And then God said, “What’s missing, Prince?” And Prince said, “Aretha. We need Aretha.”

Then all the heavenly host said, “Yes!” Then God said, “Prince, I think you’re right.”

My grandmother laughed and called me crazy. It’s nice to dream, to hope, to believe. I believe Aretha, the Queen of Soul, is in heaven with the King of Kings. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.






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Born in Oakland and raised in San Francisco, playwright and author, Alretha Thomas is making her name through her pen. She started at the age of ten, when her 5th grade teacher picked and read her short story assignment in front of the class – that simple, loving act empowered a new writer. A graduate of U.S.C., Alretha’s plays have graced numerous Southern California stages. Her most recent production, “One Woman, Two Lives,” starred Kellita Smith of the Bernie Mac Show. Her debut novel, “Daughter Denied” was launched in 2008 and has received glowing reviews from readers and book clubs across the country. Her second novel “Dancing Her Dreams Away,” launched in 2011 and was also well-received. “Married in the Nick of Nine” is her third novel and she recently completed the sequel, “The Baby in the Window.” Alretha says the one and only upside to her 350-mile-a-week-commute, is that it gives her ample time to come up with story ideas. When not in bumper–to-bumper traffic she enjoys going to the movies, blogging, and spending time with her husband Roy.