Big Chuck Was There! Aretha Franklin, Cornell University, 9/17/1971
God bless Aretha Franklin, the once and forever "Queen of Soul." She passed away this morning at her home in Detroit. She was 76 years old.
In the fall of 1971 I was living in my hometown in Sidney. My best friend, Jim Ruane, and I loved to listen to Aretha Franklin tapes when we rode around town or sat up at the Sidney football field late into the night trying to figure life out. Aretha was basically the soundtrack of our lives back then. And all of a sudden we heard she was going to give a concert in our area. Cornell University in Ithaca.
We secured tickets (I think they were $12.00) and drove out to Barton Hall on the Cornell campus. It was a chilly early autumn evening, September 17, 1971.
My friend and I were amazed at the crowd. Long lines of young people snaked across the campus lawns waiting to get to their seats inside. This was really one of the first big college concerts I had been to. And, yes, I was surprised how mixed the audience was, both black and white. Only later did I realize that she had included a concert rider into her contract saying she would NOT play to all white audiences. Pretty daring for the time.
She came out, the crowd roared, she sat at her piano, she danced, her back up band cooked to a boil, she sweat buckets, she teased her conductor, the crowd roared some more. She played all the hits off her 1970 album "Spirit in the Dark," and ended with a gospel medley that raised the roof off that old field house.
On the long ride home at midnight, my friend and I played the "Spirit in the Dark" 8-track over and over and over. At high volume. It felt like the drive back to Sidney took only 20 minutes.
It was one of those "never forget" moments in a person's life. I was 22 years old.
I loved Aretha Franklin. She was an American Original.