U.Va. Panel Will Pay Respect to Aretha Franklin on Oct. 1

September 20, 2010

Note: The panel discussion will be held as scheduled, regardless of whether the Aretha Franklin concert is postponed.

September 16, 2010 — "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" – that's what the University of Virginia will give to Aretha Franklin before her Oct. 1 Charlottesville concert, when the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies hosts a panel of noted music historians who will discuss her significance.

The event, "Respecting Aretha Franklin: The Music and Performance of 'The Queen of Soul,' " is free and open to the public and will be held from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the balcony lounge of the Paramount Theater. Franklin's sold-out show begins at 8 p.m. that night.

"Upon learning that Aretha Franklin would be appearing in concert in Charlottesville, I immediately thought that we at the University should do something to recognize and honor her presence in our community, as well as her significance to popular music worldwide," institute director Deborah McDowell said.

The event will begin and end with performances by noted soloist Barbara Edwards.

Panelists include U.Va. music professor Scott DeVeaux, Daphne Brooks of Princeton University and Waldo Martin of the University of California, Berkeley.

DeVeaux's most recent book, "Jazz," co-written with critic Gary Giddins, has been nominated for the 2010 Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Award for Best Book about Jazz. DeVeaux, who specializes in American music, popular as well as jazz, will talk about "From the Beginning: Aretha Franklin and 'Precious Lord.' "

Brooks  is a specialist in African-American literature and culture, performance studies, cultural studies and popular music culture. Her talk, "Run(ning) with Scissors: The Art and Activism of Aretha's Melisma," will focus on the work of Franklin's use of the vocal melisma (the technique of singing a series of many notes on one syllable) and its relation to civil rights and Black Power socio-political activism.  

Martin, whose talk is "'Ain't No Way': The Gender Politics of Aretha," has done considerable work on the history and politics of African-American music and is currently completing a book chapter on Franklin at the intersection of soul and gospel music.

Along with the Woodson Institute, the event is co-sponsored by the McIntire Department of Music.

Celebrating its 30th year, the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies in U.Va.'s College of Arts & Sciences promotes interdisciplinary and collaborative research and interpretation of the African and African-American experience in a global context. The institute administers a residential fellowship program for pre- and post-doctoral scholars and the University's undergraduate major/minor degree in African-American and African Studies.

— By Anne Bromley