Today I join my community, my industry and the world in mourning the loss and celebrating the life of my dear sister, friend, and ally, Aretha Franklin. I send my love and offer prayers of grace and peace to the members of her family, her friends and colleagues who walked alongside her and shared her with tens of millions of fans around the world.
I have so many fond memories of Aretha. Throughout her career, I was blessed to share her music and her iconic story. I am humbled to have been a part of her journey and to have served as an eyewitness to the evolution of her artistry and the formation of her legacy.
For more than 60 years, Aretha Franklin shared her gift and touched the world. She was a musical pioneer whose voice defines an era, amplifies a sound and reflects the range of who we are as black people. It is no wonder that Rolling Stone Magazine listed her as number one on its list of “100 Greatest Singers of All Time.”
Aretha’s music commanded “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” and that song not only became a rallying cry during the civil rights movement but also served as an anthem for women who still identify with its message, today. Her timeless classics also became historical markers in our personal journeys and our collective story as a community. She understood her progress was our progress, her success was our success, and when the door opened for her, it opened for us as well. Aretha was unapologetically black. She was committed to black music and black radio. She understood its role in her career and remained loyal to our company across the years.
Like many of our musicians, Aretha’s musical roots are embedded in the black church, and gospel music was at her core. Her talent transcended genres and not only earned her the title of the “Queen of Soul” but also the distinction of being the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And while many will remember her for all of the titles she has received, I believe, Aretha Franklin, in her own words, said it best, “being a singer is a natural gift. It means I’m using to the highest degree possible the gift that God gave me to use. I’m happy with that.” And Aretha Franklin, so are we. Rest in peace my sister.
With total love, respect and appreciation,
Cathy Hughes Chairperson