By Valerie Fraling, Special to the AFRO

“Music does a lot of things for a lot of people. It’s transporting, for sure. It can take you right back, years back, to the very moment certain things happened in your life. It’s uplifting, it’s encouraging, it’s strengthening.” Aretha Franklin

The first time I met Aretha Franklin was her first appearance at the Baltimore Civic Center. DJ Larry Dean took me backstage to meet the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She was so gracious and built like a “Brick house.”

“I say a little prayer for you” Aretha Franklin

While backstage, Sir Johnny O told us that Otis Redding had just died in a plane crash. We sat in disbelief as everyone processed the tragic news. Later, Aretha went on stage to perform as only the future Queen could.

“Being the Queen is not all about singing, and being a diva is not all about singing. It has much to do with your service to people. And your social contributions to your community and your civic contributions as well.” Aretha Franklin

Years later, The Queen performed at Pier V in Baltimore, my great friend Biddy Wood asked me if I wanted to meet Aretha Franklin. He walked over to her limousine and the next thing I know I am standing in front of the Queen and Wes Hairston is standing beside the limo witnessing this special moment. Biddy walked away and she invited me to sit in the limo with her.

“Everybody wants respect. In their own way, three-year-olds would like respect, and acknowledgment, in their terms.” Aretha Franklin

The first thing she asked me was “how is Damita?” Now, I’m totally impressed that she would ask about a fellow sister in music. I told her how Damita Jo DeBlanc, a singer, was doing and she told me to make sure I told Damita that she asked for her. We talked mostly about Baltimore back in the day. I will always remember that magical night.

“I’ve been around long enough for people to know who I am and what my contributions are. They know me as more than just an artist. I think they know me as a woman as well.” Aretha Franklin

I saw The Queen perform at the Meyerhoff; I was standing outside when I saw her pull up in her limo. I wasn’t close enough to speak but, as she stepped out of the limo she looked around and waved. Yes, the Queen waved. I got my ticket from my good friend Mary Demory and and unbeknownst to me, it was the best seat in the house, seven rows back dead center. The Queen walked out on stage with her legendary big purse, in a sky blue gown. She sat the purse down next to the piano and gave a royal performance befitting her royal subjects, who have loved her from the beginning of her career until infinity.

The last time I saw the Queen was at the inauguration of President Obama. In frigid weather she sang as we all stood in the cold, proving once again that she was still the Queen.

“Falling out of love is like losing weight. It’s alot easier putting it on than taking it off.” Aretha Franklin

The Queen taught us about RESPECT and how to feel like a “Natural Woman,” she taught us if we wanted “a do right man we had to be a do right woman.” The Queen told us about “the house that Jack built” and when we’re sick don’t call no doctor but call “Dr. Feelgood” and the perseverance to sit right there “until you come back to me” and how to say “call me.” Then she would tell him “I’m drinking again” while experiencing “sweet bitter love” while telling him “I never loved a man the way that I loved you.”

“And I was booked once to go on ‘Ed Sullivan’ and I got bumped and ran out the back door crying.” Aretha Franklin

Queen, in your early life like a “bridge over troubled water,” you navigated the tide and made every young girl realize it’s not where you start but where you end in life that counts.

The “skylark” will sing as you “climb up the mountain” riding on the “freeway of love in your pink cadillac” remember to “rock steady” and “jump to it” entering heaven’s gates. “You told Mary don’t you weep” but it’s hard not to weep.

“Feels like I’ve seen you before maybe in a past life, you were mine and I was yours. ‘Cause the vibe we share feels so comfortable. Is it possible someone could make me lose control? Look what you’ve done to me. Finding it hard to breathe, cause’ I just can’t believe you’re feeling me like I’m feeling you.” Aretha Franklin

Happy 44th anniversary Dell and Tony Perry and happy 10th anniversary to Colin’s Restaurateurs, Dante and Candes Daniels.

“Every birthday is a gift. Every day is a gift.” Aretha Franklin

Sending birthday wishes to Rosa Barber on her 93rd birthday, 80th birthday for William Clayton and happy birthday Pastor Purcell Wylie, Pastor Tim Tooten, Helen McDonald and my great neighbors Ernestine Jolivet and Tina Jolivet.

Somebody prayed for me

Please keep my mother, retired United Methodist Pastor Pauline Wilkins, in your prayers as she recuperates at St. Agnes Hospital and Thurston Jones as he recuperates at home.

“I paid my dues; I certainly did.” Aretha Franklin

Family and friends gathered to say good-bye to the beautiful 96-year-old Priscilla Blackwell, mother of Maurice, Charles, Leo and Wayland. Mrs. Priscilla was a woman of class, style and dignity, elegantly dressed in a hat, stylish outfit and her red nails, making a true fashion statement.

Family and friends are mourning the death of longtime community and political activist Randy Carroll and prayers to Ralph Gilliam on the death of his mother Josephine Gilliam.

“When God loves you, what can be better than that? “ Aretha Franklin