Full Text Eulogy for Aretha Franklin as delivered on August 31, 2018 by Reverend Jasper Williams, Jr.

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Amen.  I want to talk about what we all have mentioned on today and this is my subject as I attempt eulogize Aretha Franklin. My subject is Aretha the Queen of Soul. Aretha, the Queen of Soul. Repeat after me if you will – Aretha, the Queen of Soul.

Sometimes during the month of May in 1964 at the Regal Theater in Chicago Illinois a local disc jockey by the name of [Pervis Spann] officially anointed and crowned Aretha the Queen of Soul.  But I have come here today to tell you the people of the earth that God crown Aretha Queen of Soul long long long time ago. You may ask when.  I’ll tell you when.  Back before the Morning Star. Back before the sons of God cried out for joy. Before that was a when or a why or a which or a that God crowned Aretha Queen of Soul. We see that here in the second chapter of the first book of the Bible. Genesis chapter 2, verse 7 says, “And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul”.  In this one verse do we see the total being and makeup of mankind.  This verse alludes to the trichotomy of man — that man is made up out of three entities. And it lists these entities body, spirit, and soul.  It says “And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground…”   That’s man’s body.  In the Greek it is “soma”.  “And breathe into his nostrils the breath of life”.  That’s “pneuma”, translated ‘spirit’. And then it says that man became a living soul. That’s “psuche”, or the inner man — his emotions, his will. Man became a living soul.

And so this word “formed”, God “formed” man.  It’s like that of a potter that takes his clay and shapes it so as to form the vessel that he is trying to make. And this is saying in essence that God was totally involved in the fashioning of mankind, that God took that dust of the earth took it and formed it and shaped it configurated it until he got it like he wanted it to be.  And then God stood it up because it did not become he until he breathed into its nostrils the breath of life and then he became a living soul. So then, this is saying in essence as it relates to all of us I am a spirit. I have a soul.  I live in my body. I wish you would just repeat that after me if you don’t mind. I am a spirit. I have a soul.  I live in my body.

But when we hear the title Queen of Soul, how does that connect with God? Queen of Soul.  Well this title comes from our black culture.  You know when we talk about Queen of Soul, it alludes to a form of music that is known to us as soul music. So what is that? What is soul music?  Soul music is a type of music that is a combination of some of all of the music.  Jazz, splattered with a little gospel, peppered with a little soul, it has all kinds of rock, and then meshed into an urban rhythm kind of blues — is soul music.  So with all of the various musics wrapped up into soul music that’s evidence of the fact that there must be a god somewhere.

But what does this word “soul” mean? What is soul?  I think it is appropriate right along through here if I would allow Aretha’s father – the late C L Franklin — to come and stand before us and tell us Dr. Franklin what soul is. Because back in 1955, Dr. C L Franklin created an album that was called “The 23rd Psalms’, and when he got to verse 3 where it says “he restoreth my soul” he said something I would like to quote. He says and I quote “soul is pretty hard to define nobody can really say what soul is”. He said “as close as we can come to defining soul is to say that soul is that part of man that is “a little bit like God”. That means then that God in man is soul. Again, God in man is soul. Thank you Lord.

And so when we come down to this thing called soul today in our world, we look at our world as it is flowing and going and moving and it is quite obvious that with the world moving as it is that mankind is moving toward losing his soul.

One day back to the days of slavery there was this slave owner who was getting ready to travel abroad and he called his top notch slave and said to him, “John I’m getting ready to go overseas and I’ll be gone for some several months and I want you to take care of my child.   I want you to take care of my child clothes take care of my child shoes take care of my child until I return.”  And then some several months went by John saw the boss coming down the road and ran to him and got out on his knees and said “master sir here are your child’s clothes I washed them I rinsed them I ironed them I folded them neatly. Master sir here are your child shoes are shined them and I buffeted them. But master sir I lost the child.  I lost the child.”

One of these old days that awful day will surely come upon it I will make haste when I must stand before my judge and give and face that solemn test that would be a critical time for some of us because we will say on that day, “master sir that body you gave me I cherished it I bathed it I showered it I washed it I brush the teeth daily. Master sir, I put colognes under the neck and perfumes on my body. I anointed it with precious creams and art months. Master sir I wined and dined the body you gave me. I laid and played in the body you gave me. I huffed and I puffed with the body you gave me. I joked and I jest[ed] with the body you gave me.  But Master sir I lost my soul.” How cold how chilling how non-redeeming. “ master sir I lost my soul. I lost my soul.”

But what about your soul? What condition is your soul in today? That part of you that is supposed to be like God where is it? What’s going on? Have you lost your relationship with God? Have you? Let me tell you this.  100 years from this moment it’ll make no difference about how much money you got in your bank account. It’ll make no difference about how many stocks and bonds and mutual funds you have invested in the Dow Jones index. It won’t make it and never mind about how many men you have women you have what you’ve done how she got mad with him because of what you said about her.   100 years from this moment, the only thing about any of us that will matter is whether or not your soul has been saved. That’s all. That’s all. That’s all that will matter.

But shift with me now if you will and come where we are with the eyes of the world on us in this homegoing celebration of Aretha the Queen of Soul. The question that I want to ask:  How can we take this iconic stature of Aretha Franklin who we deem Queen of Soul, I mean how can we walk out of this room today and say that it is Aretha’s life, Aretha’s legacy that has brought about real true change in our world on today?  I mean how can we do that? How can we say that her life and what she has involved herself in while here on Earth that in this moment of the last day of the month of August 2018 when we carried her to her final resting place [that] true change came to our world? How can we immortalize the Queen of Soul?

Well right in here we see the United States of America the land of the free and the home of the brave, if we can see the Black America, the African-American community, if we can just remove the veneer, takeaway the prejudice lay aside the biasness, and take a good clean look at where we are in Black America.  If we are truthful honest and fair we will have to say that Black America has lost its soul. The one thing that Black America needs today more than anything else is to come back home to god.

Hush. Listen. I hear the Queen echoing in the wind something must be done done done. Something must be done done done. So they must be done done done. The Queen is warning to issue her mandate. She’s wanting to sign her executive order. So they must be done done done. You may not know it but Aretha did an awful lot for the civil rights movement. You’ve heard the various speakers talk about how she worked for Dr. King and took no monies for her services, how she mounted that podium and sang precious Lord take my hand when we buried him back in 1968. And one of the other main things that I don’t think too many of us may have recognized but it was Aretha who spoke out and delivered Angela Davis from the awesome situation that she found herself in. And the thing that I remember about it is that my uncle Reverend A. R. Williams in Memphis Tennessee was close confidant bosom friend to Dr. Franklin.  They play checkers every day was a time for them to kick back unwind relax and talk smack one to another. And I remember Uncle Buddy that’s what we call them talked about how it was that Reverend Franklin was disturbed about how Aretha went and got and to the Davis out of jail. And he hadn’t heard that she was connected with communism, and he did not want that to be a blight on his church and a blight on his ministry and he popped Aretha, “Why did you do that Aretha? Why did you…?” And she out of hysteria said “daddy she is a black woman and had nobody to help her and I wanted to help her.” Period.

So I hear her voice again running through the echo of the wind, “Something must be done so we must be done so they must be done.” No one can deny that Black America there is truly a need in our race. As I look back in retrospect, allow my mind to take a stroll back down memories lane there was a time when we as a race had a thriving economy. I remember we had our own little grocery stores. We had our own little hotels. They weren’t big and fancy but they were ours.  I remember we even had our own little banks, ladies and gentlemen. As bad as the days of Jim Crow and segregation were, the one good thing out of segregation that it did for us [is] it forced us to each other instead of forcing us own each other. And we quickly come to realize that as a people all we really have is one another. But, when we marched, when we protested, when we got through singing we shall overcome, yes we were rewarded with integration we got what we fought for we got what we march for. But, with the breadth of integration there also came the loss of not only the black community’s economy, but there also came the loss of the black man’s soul.  Aw, you ain’t got to say Amen I know I’m preaching to ya. We lost we lost how soul.  Oh God Jesus help me today.  We lost our soul.

Where is your soul black man? As I look in your house there are no fathers in the home no more.  Where is your soul? 70% of our households are led by our precious proud, fine black women. But as proud beautiful and fine as our black women are, one thing a black woman cannot do.  A black woman cannot raise a black boy to be a man. She can’t do that. She can’t do that. She can’t do that.  Black man where is your soul?

A study was released not long ago by Tuskegee Institute and in this study it showed how the Ku Klux Klan has killed 3,446 black people over an 86 year span of time. That’s an awful lot of black people for anybody to kill. But the study also revealed that black people killed that number of black people not once a year and not 86 years, but every six months. So you multiply times two, the 3446 that means that we kill six thousand plus black people every year. And over that 86 year span of time, that equates to us killing among us 592,712 black people are killed by black people.

It amazes me how it is when the police kills one of us, we’re ready to protest. March.  Destroy innocent property. We’re ready to loot. Steal whatever we want. But when we kill one hundred of us, nobody says anything nobody does anything.  Black on black crime we’re all doing time we’re locked up in our mind. There’s got to be a better way. We must stop this today. Think down. Look down. Walk down. Talk down. Head down. Most times, we are low down. Where is your soul?

So if you choose to ask me today do black lives matter, let me answer like this. No. Black lives do not matter. Black lives will not matter. Black lives ought not matter. Black lives life should not matter. Black lives must not matter, until black people start respecting black lives and stop killing ourselves. Black lives can NEVER matter.

Walk around in our communities today. If hurts my heart. Everybody you see in our community walking around like zombies.  You know just wacked on crack.  Everybody high.  Everybody drunk. They walk up to you and try to reach for you, you shoo em off like they’re flies.   Where is your soul? Where is your god?

So shoot back and come back to where we are.   The Queen’s legacy.  The Queen’s life.  What can we leave here saying that the Queen of Soul has done, is doing,  will do, that would impact us as a race to turn our race around?

The eyes of the world are upon us today because of late Dr. CL Franklin. I mean despite the fact that his marriage faltered.  He and his wife broke up. We don’t know really what happened. But we do know that he ended up having to raise four children by himself. No I’m not saying that Dr. Franklin exercised the best parenting skills that there are. I’m not saying that by no impression am I trying to perpetrate that to you. Because he certainly did not. It was no way that a man called upon to preach the gospel as much as he did and have the awesome responsibility of pastoring his church, there’s no way in the world that he could adequately raised through parenting skills no way could raise four children. Something in the home had to be wrong. There had to be some kind of deficit. And we can tell that it was the deficit somewhere because of the way the Queen sang. Most of the songs we heard her saying particularly in her early years we could feel the pain. We could feel the hurt. We can feel her back sets and setbacks in life. We could feel her heart aches and heartbreaks in life because they met our heartaches. They made our back sets out setbacks. We could feel that when she saved a song. Natural woman ain’t no way. All of those songs that she sang.

I’m not saying negatively about Dr. Franklin because, I went down that same road. There’s no need of me standing up here trying to make you think that my life has been squeaky-clean because it hasn’t. But take it not lightly when it comes down to the home – oh God Jesus when it comes down to where and what the responsibilities of us as a race is in a home, with our children when we fuss and argue and when we fight and separate and divorce you’re not cognizant of the fact that scars are put upon our children there’s sometimes they never see it till they get grown and get out on their own. And then they spot and see the scars that are upon their lives.

But shift here with Dr. Franklin’s situation as we look here and what he did with his children. Where we are with our children. He still exercised as best he could parenting skills. Anytime we stray away from God’s design for what the home is supposed to be havoc will be our results.

I mean God has told us what to do with the home. He designed the home. I mean God put in the home a man and a woman. A father and a mother. See God put in the home a husband and a wife. A provider and a nurturer.  The provider is to provide for the home.  Man’s responsibility. The woman is to give nurturing which means her role is to give the child love, affection that prepares him, her for love and affection when they get out of the home. And whenever a man is not there and the provisions are not made for the home, and whenever the mother is not there and the child doesn’t learn how to nurture and be loved and thereby loved, the wound is to the child before birth what the home is to be to the child after birth.

And whenever you take a foreign object and you put it into the womb before that baby is born that’s abortion before birth. And when that home is not like it ought to be the father’s not doing his power the mother not doing her part and the child has deficits, that’s abortion after birth. So as a race Black America does not need better houses.  Oh we don’t need no better houses. I know the government big business and big corporations can provide for us better housing. They can give them to us. Sometimes we requiring want to be given too much too often. But a home is what I see black people need more than a house. We don’t need better houses given to us. We need to make for ourselves better homes. Better homes. We need better homes.

Huh? Huh? What did you say? What did you say? What did you say? Did you say was the difference in house and a home? Well may I tell you there’s a vast difference in a house and a home. A house is structural. But a home is spiritual. A house is man’s master design. But home is God’s divine design. A house is a place of work. But a home is a place of peace.  Oh God help me keep my mind Jesus.  A house gives credit, leverage and tax benefits. But a home gives neighbors family and community. A house has a 10, 15, 30 year mortgage. But who has lifetime memories. God is in a home. Hell is in a house.  No wonder nobody ever says “house sweet house”. But we are always saying “home sweet home”. So Dr. Franklin did not allow himself to be cramped into his daughter’s future based on what he saw. Not based upon what he thought.  When he saw what his daughter had in her he put out on a foundation so that she could “rock steady baby”. That’s what he did. Sometimes we mess up our children when we force them to do and be what we want them to be. God does not give our children to us. God gives our children through us. It has to be our responsibility to bring them to where God has destined them to be so.

So Dr. Franklin did a super fantastic job in making sure that his daughter had the kind of life in terms of her career. You may not know about it but I remember like it was yesterday the flack, the criticism. How they talked about him just because he wanted his daughter to live her life and to be who she came to be. He ain’t no preacher. How can he be a preacher and he preaching the gospel and she’s singing the blues. Back in that day and time, oh how they talked about him. Everybody had thumbs down on CL Franklin preaching the gospel and letting his daughter sing the blues. I saw it with my own eyes. I remember it was in 1960 in Memphis, Tennessee at Ellis Auditorium the promoters had promoted this to be a night where Reverend Dr. C L Franklin will preach and at eight- clock and everybody will hear him preach his celebrated sermon “The Eagle Stirs Her Nest”. And then they said at ten-o’clock his daughter Aretha will be singing the blues.  Everybody all over the city had thumbs downed Dr. C L Franklin. They were waiting for the crowd to come in at eight o’clock and they packed the house out thinking that everybody would leave and the other R&B rhythm and blues crowd will come in at ten o’clock.

And when he got through preaching “The Eagle Stirs The Nest” I see him just like it was yesterday. He took his scarf put it around his neck, put his overcoat on and sat down.  Part of the people start getting up going out or the crowd was coming in and there was pure commotion and confusion. And when he sensed how confusing it was this parent gets up and goes to the microphone and grabs it again stands and saying “I don’t know what’s wrong with you all while you’re treating me in acting like you are. I mean Aretha is my daughter.  You all think that I’m not going to sit here and listen to my daughter? If you think that’s the case what you need to do is go on and let whoever in come in because I am getting ready to sit down on this stage and listen to my daughter sing Blues”. And then he turned around and “Aretha come here baby and sang the blues to your daddy”.  Now that’s not the end of the story though. Here’s the end. The same crowd who had shouted when he preached “The Eagle Stirs Her Nest” all of us shouted all over again when Aretha sang “It Ain’t No Way” because that was his love for his daughter.

So the key to our race and where we are now, we gotta have a home. We gotta to turn our home, turn our houses back into a home. And so as I leave you I just want to tell you I’m calling for pastors and preachers of the gospel across denominational lines across racial lines across religious lines. I’ve called upon us to lock our arms together now and we can turn Black America around.  You say where shall we go and what shall we do? Right in your own neighborhoods where you Church is there are struggling single moms that don’t know what to do. That needs a man in the house. Through mentoring programs and parenting our children we can turn Black America around.

So the Queen is saying to us something must be done. Something must be done. If you would just hush and listen with me on a day you could hear her voice saying it’s time now that my race turns its direction around and come back home to our God.

As we stop here today, and look at how our world moving civilization is torn by degradation flirting with doom and disaster. High-mindedness runs like a mad dog and is beating an uncertain path. Selfishness has evaporated the milk of human kindness. While pain and panic are chasing each other like June bugs in the summer sun. Oh Lord.

It’s time now that we turn around and try to get our soul back. The Queen of Soul has spoken now.  It’s time now for Black America to come back home.  Oh Lord.  We’ve wandered far away from God.  But now it’s time to come home. The path of sin too long I’ve roamed.  Now I’m coming home.  Ride on King Jesus.  Oh it’s a shame how wild we’ve allowed our children to be. Nobody can do anything with our own children. The school teacher can’t handle our children. The pastor in the church can’t handle our children. The police in the streets can handle our children. Oh it’s time to turn Black America around.  Oh Lord.

Whatever way the home goes, the world goes. Did you hear what I’m saying? As the home goes, so goes the street. As the street goes, so goes the neighborhood. As a neighborhood goes, so goes the city. As the city goes, so goes the state. As the state goes, so goes the nation. As a nation, goes so goes the world.   Ride on King Jesus.  I heard somebody sing a long time ago “what the world needs now is love sweet love”.  I don’t believe that children because it’s so hard to love somebody and know they hate you.  But Aretha The Queen of Soul told us all we need to have “is a little respect”.  Do I have a witness hear?  I heard her sing, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”.  Ohhh, a little, a little respect.  Just a little respect.  Congress need to respect each other. The Democrats need to respect the Republican. The Republican needs to respect the Democrats. The Liberals need to respect the conservatives. The conservative needs to respect the liberals. The straights need to respect the gay.  The gays need to respect the straights.  Everybody.  Aw shucks I wish I had a witness here.  Everybody.  Everybody oughta give a little respect.  I’m through now children.  The queen did what she could.  But it’s time now for us to do what we can.  I said the Queen did what she could.  It’s time for us to do what we can.  I got one more thing to tell ya.  If when you give the best of your service, God will, God will, God will, God will, God will…  Anybody know he will.  Anybody know he will.  God will take care.

Williams, J., Jr. (2018, August 31). Aretha — The Queen of Soul.

Transcribed by @KevinMOliverATL