‘She gave me hope’: Jully Black on how Aretha Franklin inspired generations


TORONTO — Hearing the powerful voice of Aretha Franklin over the airwaves of 1980s pop radio left a permanent impression on Canadian singer Jully Black.

Hardly eight years old at the time, Black remembers even at that age she recognized the rarity of a black woman being played on a Top 40 radio station in Toronto.

“To hear a soulful voice come through gave me hope,” the Juno Award winner says.

“Right here in Canada, I was hearing this voice that I knew wasn’t from here — but I knew that I could do that too. As young as I was, that was the beginning.”

Franklin, who is synonymous with her title as the “Queen of Soul,” died on Thursday in Detroit from pancreatic cancer. She was 76.

Black says her sisters were loyal fans of Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 radio show where Franklin’s mid-1980s hits “Freeway of Love,” “Who’s Zoomin’ Who” and “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves” all would have made appearances.

It encouraged her to learn more about Franklin’s roots as the daughter of a church pastor, which Black found paralleled her own experience as the daughter of a deacon.

While Black never met Franklin, she felt as if her personality shone through in the media.

“She says what she means, and she means what she says,” Black says.

“There are times where we’ve had to pass up things because it didn’t align with our faith, with our integrity. That’s where the church always stayed with me and I believe that’s where the church stayed with her.”

And Franklin’s notorious fear of flying, which often prevented her from touring around the world, didn’t seem to affect her career much at all.

“Her music got her into places, rooms and countries that she didn’t even have to go to,” Black says.

“That’s how brilliant her music was.”


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David Friend, The Canadian Press