This week we lost an icon. Aretha Franklin is legendary and her music will live on forever in the hearts of those who were touched by her songs. I grew up with music in my household and I try to share music with my kids every opportunity I can. Music connects us to our history, our memories, and ultimately our values. There’s a reason we are encouraged to listen to music with our children. I don’t think it has to be just the classical genre. Popular music counts too. With a career that spanned 60 years, there’s a lot to choose from. Here are my five favorite Aretha Franklin songs for kids. I’ll be sharing with my family to celebrate her life and ours.
I Say a Little Prayer for You
I love this choice for my kids because the message is simple. I love you, I think about you throughout the day, and I pray for you every single day. I want the best for you. Is that not what family does? So this song really speaks volumes of what I want my children to know about unconditional and real love. Aretha may have been talking about romantic love but I feel this could be an anthem for families. Aretha’s version was released in 1968. The song was originally written for and performed by Dionne Warwick a year earlier.
This is one of Aretha’s most popular songs with a powerful empowerment message. It was released in 1967 and has been associated with the Civil Rights Movement and Women’s Rights. Its message is timeless though, as parents don’t we want our kids to know their worth and that they deserve respect? Yes, we do. This song also was released by another artist prior to Aretha’s rendition of the song. Otis Redding performed the song in 1965.
A Rose is still a Rose
A Rose is Still a Rose was released when I was in my first year in college in 1998. I’m divulging this information not to date myself but to illustrate a point that music connects us to our history. We remember where were in life and what was important to us with a song we relate to bookmarks a phase of life. There’s a strong message of knowing my worth and power as a woman and not losing myself in relationships. Lyrically it was like advice from your grandmother or favorite aunt. Visually the video showed a lot of artists that I was also listening to at the time. A Rose is Still a Rose shares a timeless message when I consider the challenges and pressures that kids feel to fit in to be accepted in their peer groups and it gives me a chance to share with them something that was impactful to me.
Til You Come Back to Me
Released in 1973, this song makes my list because I have very fond memories of this song playing in the house on Saturday mornings as we did our weekend chores. I particularly fond love the duet version with Stevie Wonder. Here’s another powerful example of how music can comfort us when we associate it with the comfort of home. It’s a pleasant surprise to have the song come on when I’m with my siblings present day, we sing along ignoring funny looks from our youngsters.
You Make Me Feel/Natural Woman
I watched Aretha’s performance of her 1967 hit a few years ago. During a tribute to the Carol King who helped write her song, Aretha made President Obama and all of us cry…yeah…that happened. The first verse of the song is art and I’d like to talk to my kids about hope and what it means to the heart. The song itself has been such a part of pop culture being performed by the likes of Celine Dion, Mary J. Blige, there was even a popular ensemble performance during a concert that aired on VH1 including Aretha, Carole King, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Shania Twain and Gloria Esteban.
What are your favorites?
I highly recommend you pick up these songs and have a listen. I bet you have your own recommendations. I’d love to hear about them and about why they are meaningful to you. Which of your favorite Aretha songs will you listen to with your family?
Aretha is such an amazing talent and her music has a multi-generational impact. What strikes me about these choices is that the majority were released before I was born. In fact when my parents were around the same age as my children today, is when these songs were released. How amazing is it that my parents shared what was meaningful to them and it became meaningful to me. Today I build on her legacy by playing music that is meaningful to me because music has the power to connect us in intangible ways, forever and ever.