By Lauren Victoria Burke
In the wake of the August 16th death of the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin, Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), along with Representatives Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) and Doug Collins (R-GA) have introduced legislation to posthumously award Franklin the Congressional Gold Medal.
The legendary artist died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 76. “Aretha was simply a legend. Her work and impact will be felt for generations to come, and it’s long past time Congress honor her with the Congressional Gold Medal,” said Senator Harris in an August 21 release.
The legislation will be called, “The Aretha Franklin Congressional Gold Medal Act” and, should it become law, it will honor Franklin’s role in “shaping the nation’s culturally and socially relevant discography and highlight how she was an example to all people in how one person’s talents can make a difference in the lives of millions of people across the globe.”
Many of the tributes to Franklin since her passing have emphasized not only her musical talent but her role in shaping and empowering the role of women with songs that gave voice to life experiences from a decidedly female perspective.
Aretha Franklin’s involvement in civil rights is also noted in the legislation. Her music often served as a call to action that inspired thousands to join civil rights movements and still maintains a social context that resonates across events even in present day.
“I am proud to join Senator Harris in introducing a bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to honor an American music legend, Aretha Franklin, for her contributions to American music culture,” said Rep. Lawrence.
“Aretha Franklin was soul personified and she gave us the gift of her voice, her truth and her unapologetic passion to demand compassion, love and R-E-S-P-E-C-T for women everywhere. An iconic entertainer, powerful civil rights leader, history maker and a beautiful spirit I was privileged to call friend; we honor this Detroit native, the true Queen of Soul. She will be dearly missed, never forgotten and always treasured,” Lawrence added.
“Aretha Franklin’s legacy, like her voice, will sing through the generations,” said Senator Hatch. “Through her talent, she touched the hearts of millions, lifting all of us with songs of hope and humanity. Aretha brought light, laughter, and love to all who would hear. I’m grateful to play a small role in honoring the life of this remarkable artist.”
The legislation is expected to pass and be signed into law.