Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Aretha Franklin's Onion

When my brother and I were kids, my mother sometimes read us a fairy tale called "The Onion."

It was the story of an evil, selfish old lady who had done only one good deed in her life: She had given a single onion to a starving homeless beggar. After her death, she finds herself in hell - but she is told that her one good deed might be her salvation: An onion is lowered from the heavens that just might be strong enough to lift her up to the pearly gates and beyond if only she can hold on to it.

So grab the onion she did, and as she got lifted up, some other lost souls saw their chance to spend eternity in cooler climates and held on to her legs. "No!" she screamed. "It will never carry all of us. Get your own damn onion!" as she kicks them off. Of course, at that very moment, the onion falls apart and she becomes Satan's bitch for evah and evah.

Ah, I love a story where the guy gets the girl in the end. Sniff.

But anyway. I'm sure all of us know evil people who have that one redeeming moment, some may even have a few. For example, did you know that Diana Ross helped pay Mary Wells's medical bills when the latter was dying of throat cancer?

For me, Aretha Franklin's onion moment was when she handed over the Grammy she had just won for her "Young, Gifted and Black" album to fellow nominee Esther Phillips. I had always assumed that Aretha realized what I feel about the two albums in question: While "Young, Gifted and Black" is one of several phenomenal Aretha recordings, Esther's "From a Whisper to a Scream" was a musical milestone, an emotional tour de force that would stand the test of time as one of the greatest albums ever recorded.

And then I read Aretha's explanation in her autobiography, "From These Roots." Here it is, straight from the horse's ass. I mean mouth. Maybe.

Perhaps my most memorable Grammy moment, though, was when I appreciated another artist. It happened at the 1972 Grammy ceremonies.
I won for Young, Gifted and Black but gave the Grammy to Esther Phillips, who had been nominated for From a Whisper to a Scream. I liked Esther's record, although I didn't consider it better than mine. I gave her my Grammy because Esther was battling personal demons, and I felt she could use encouragement.

It was a pity Grammy!!

Go kick at Esther's soul, Aretha. See what it will get you.

I am not even gonna dedicate an Aretha clip to this entry. Here are Marvin and Tammy Terrell, with the Onion Song.


revolvic said...

omg, she's a bigger bitch than i'd expected her to be.

Derrick said...

hmm she is not really a b.tch she just been on top for all of her adult life..I can only imagine the isolation of being there all alone for so long he queen of soul.. history tells us that those at the top loose perspective .. sounds like she did just that when she wrote those words...

littlemonstercallum said...

It's a shame that even given the talent she had that she couldn't see it in herself to be nicer, if that makes sense. OH well the price of fame it seems.