The world wept on Friday as people woke up to the news that the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin had passed away following a battle with pancreatic cancer, as the biggest names in music paid homage to the R-E-S-P-E-C-T singer.
However not all of the tributes were well received, as Madonna came under fire for her salute to the iconic soul star during the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) on Monday night.
The 60-year-old ‘Like A Virgin’ singer was invited on stage to pay her respects to Aretha, however her efforts were branded “disrespectful” by fans, with people even calling for the person who selected Madge for the job to be sacked.
Madonna began her speech by declaring: “Aretha Louise Franklin changed the course of my life.”
“So I showed up to the audition, and two very large French record producers sat in the empty theatre,” she continued. “They asked me if I had sheet music and a song prepared. I panicked. Fortunately, one of my favourite albums was Lady Soul by Aretha Franklin.
“I blurted out, ‘You make me feel’. Silence. ‘You make me feel like a natural woman… You know, by Aretha Franklin’. They looked over at the pianist. He shook his head. ‘I don’t need sheet music’, I said, ‘I know every word. I know the song by heart, I will sing it a capella’.
“I could see that they didn’t take me seriously, and why should they? Some skinny-ass white girl is going to come up here and belt out a song by one of the greatest soul singers who ever lived? A capella? I said, ‘B***h, I’m Madonna.’ No, I didn’t. I didn’t say that. Because I wasn’t Madonna yet. I don’t know who I was. ”
She went on to credit Franklin, who died at the age of 76, with kickstarting her career and said without her “none of this would have happened, could have happened”.
“You are probably all wondering why I am telling you this story,” she said. “There is a connection, because none of this would have happened, could have happened, without our lady of soul. She led me to where I am today. And I know she influenced so many people in this house tonight. In this room tonight. And I want to thank you, Aretha, for empowering all of us. R-e-s-p-e-c-t. Long live the queen.”
However she then shared another bizarre anecdote, completely unrelated to Aretha Franklin, about the very first time she performed at the VMAs in 1984 and sang ‘Like A Virgin’, revealing that, after losing a shoe on stage, her manager told her that “her career was over”.
“Another anecdote I would like to share: In 1984, this is where the first VMAs were, in this very building. And I performed at this show. On my way down, I lost a shoe, and I was rolling on the floor and trying to make it look like it was part of the choreography, looking for the missing stiletto, and my dress flew up, and my butt was exposed. After the show, my manager said my career was over. LOL.”
Viewers were less than impressed however, as one said: “Who keeps letting Madonna do tributes? I am still mad at her for the Prince one. Aretha or Madonna? Definitely Aretha… Madonna needs to sit down somewhere… RIP Queen of Soul.”
Madonna presents an Aretha Franklin tribute by Madonna featuring Madonna with Madonna and Madonna as “Madonna”
— Marc (@MarcSnetiker) August 21, 2018
Another tweeted: “Whoever thought Madonna should do this Aretha Franklin tribute should be fired. This is disrespectful beyond.”
While another said: “Madonna’s tribute to Aretha Franklin is Madonna telling a story about herself while acknowledging she loved the ‘Lady Soul’ album.”
It isn’t the first time Madonna has come under fire for a tribute though as she was previously criticised for her speech, also at the VMAs, following the death of Michael Jackson in 2009. Her tribute to Prince at the 2016 Billboard Awards was also slammed.
However not everyone took umbrage with Madonna’s choice of words, as some defended her tribute, insisting she was crediting Franklin for inspiring her own career. One wrote: “I have no issue with Madonna’s clunky speech. On short notice, the woman thought about what Aretha meant to her – and that was someone who inspires others, including her. Sorry you didn’t get the exact tribute you wanted.”
Another said: “Madonna was probably asked ‘what did Aretha Franklin mean to you?’, so she told a story about how she actually started her entire career thanks to the ubiquity of Aretha’s music. An icon paid homage to an icon. I really don’t see the problem.”
Aretha passed away on Thursday, August 16, and the news was confirmed by her family who released a statement about the death of the family “matriarch and rock”.
“It is with deep and profound sadness that we announce the passing of Aretha Louise Franklin, the Queen of Soul,” it read. “In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family. The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds.”
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