Saturday, September 01, 2018


I have let things slip here at the Listening Ear, posting every month and a half or so, at least when I don't have another project to work on. I hope I can get some energy back - the Great War was approaching it's end 100 years ago, and I should take some note of it. Maybe by the end of September, when we can honor the Meuse-Argonne Offensive , the largest operation by Americans in the war. I've also completely ignored the events of Reconsruction, which were heating up inthe 1867-68 period, up tp the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Another subject I regret letting go of.

But that's not what this post is about (and besides,with some luck, next year we can talk about impeachment in the present tense!) This weekend, Aretha Franklin and John McCain are being laid to rest, with great fanfare. It is a very clear sign of the decline of this blog that I managed to get up a post for John McCain's death, but not Franklin's. McCain mattered - he was a very famous, powerful, and fairly significant politician, he was a representative of a somewhat more palatable form of Republicanism, a vision of the United States government as a place where competing views are put to the vote, and the winners get to govern, and everyone accepts the outcome - good things. But in the end, he was still just a politician, and while very famous, not particularly consequential (for good or ill).

Aretha Franklin, on the other hand, is one of the central figures in American culture in the last 50 years - she matters in ways politicians can't dream of. Even if soul/R&B music is not what I listen to the most, you can't escape it, and it is one of the great, powerful musical styles in the world - why would you try to escape it? It is as absolutely American a thing as exists: what is American culture? Aretha Franklin answers that as well as anyone.

So: I will keep it simple - the songs I have heard the most, the ones that made her what she is, the ones I will stop what I am doing to try to listen to when I hear them.