Looking back, it’s clear that Aretha Franklin was settling in for the long haul.
As soon as the Queen of Soul finished singing the national anthem at a Thanksgiving Day football game in her native Detroit, social media lighted up with folks expressing surprise about the length of her performance.
Accompanied by an organist (and playing piano herself), Franklin took more than four minutes to make her way through “The Star-Spangled Banner” — long enough, wrote one wag, to cook a turkey, eat it and do the dishes.
Really, though, we should’ve seen this coming. Before she started, Franklin spent a full six seconds of valuable live television time adjusting her microphone, clearly determined to set herself up for what was to come.
And what was it that came? A gloriously rambling and deeply churchy rendition of this famously difficult tune, one with vivid details worth savoring: the cascading keys, the vocal flourishes, the way she starts singing the familiar line about “the land of the free,” then doubles back for emphasis: “It is the land of the free.”
Franklin knew what she had in store, and she wanted to make sure we could hear every bit of it.
You can view last week’s performance as part of a recent wave of disruptive performances of the national anthem, many connected to football star Colin Kaepernick’s controversial decision not to stand during the song as a means of protesting America’s treatment of people of color.
But Franklin’s showstopping turn also fits into the singer’s habit of stealing scenes in recent years.
In 2014 she brought the audience at David Letterman’s late-night show to its feet by stringing together Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
Can someone please book this lady for a tree-lighting ceremony somewhere?