August 19th, 1996 – The Queen Came To Kalamazoo
It was Monday night, August 19th, 1996. Almost twenty-two years ago to the day. The Queen, Aretha Franklin came to Kalamazoo to play Miller Auditorium.Maybe it's because her health has been slowly declining, and maybe because she wasn't performing regularly either in concert or nor on late night TV, but all the love being sent Aretha Franklin's way today is the way it should be. Today we lost a giant. Yes, it's just coincidence that on August 16th, 1977, "The King", Elvis Presley died, and today "The Queen" died. Maybe she didn't sell the same number of records that Elvis did, but she was arguably as great a performer as Presley was.
It's trendy now to use the "Mt. Rushmore" analogy to label all-time greats. But Franklin belongs on the Mt. Rushmore of greatest female singers, and I'd argue, in that first position.
But back to Monday night, August 19th, 1996. I made some phone calls and there's little more than just the date of the show available to post. Cellphones weren't smart phones yet. but you knew you were in the company of greatness. There was a band set up on stage. (Akin to a big band, with brass and horn section) and a giant grand piano at the center of the stage. And then, The Queen came out. And she sang. Dear God, did she sing. This wasn't the eighteen year old appearing at the Apollo. This was the stately, grand Aretha, the Diva she had become. Not diva in the bad sense of the word, but musical diva; after all, she could sing opera. And that would blow you away, too.And she could do comedy. Here's something that may jump out at you, if you're reading obituaries and remembrances. All the "ands". And she could do this, and she could do that.
This was a woman with a gift; the gift of voice. And we were lucky enough to be there.