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Patti Smith on Aretha Franklin: 'She’ll never be gone because she left us such an amazing body of work'

Patti Smith on Aretha Franklin: 'She’ll never be gone because she left us such an amazing body of work'
Patti Smith performing at the 2016 Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland. (Jean-Christophe Bott / EPA)

On Friday morning during an interview in advance of Pathway to Paris, an upcoming concert at the Theatre at Ace Hotel, the musician, writer and activist Patti Smith was asked for her thoughts on the passing of Aretha Franklin.

Smith, who will join artists including Flea, Karen O, Eric Burden, Rebecca Foon and others in a benefit to fight global warming, answered with a typically thoughtful response.

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Below are excerpts from that part of the talk, which occurred on the phone with Smith, who was in Brittany, France.

A more prominent feature will arrive closer to the Sept. 16 Pathway to Paris concert.

With Aretha Franklin’s passing, I’m wondering whether you have any thoughts or recollections on her or her work.

You know, Aretha wasn’t much older than me. She died too young, but she gave us a lifetime of work. She started so young, both from the church and from the abstract “church of music,” and she gave so much of herself. She’ll never be gone, because she left us such an amazing body of work, and not just her beautiful voice, but also her humor, her energy.

I was watching her in “The Blues Brothers” movie not long ago — it was on TV one night — and I watching her do “Think.” She was awesome. She was the Queen of Soul, but also in that movie the Queen of the Kitchen.

I’ve been listening to her album “Amazing Grace,” which has been really rewarding.

It’s funny, when we lose such great voices and people who have given us so much, I always feel a duality. I feel the sorrow of their passing, but also such joy in replaying them.

Everywhere I go — I’ve just been in a few countries and everybody’s playing her music everywhere. I’ve been hearing it whether it’s in a cafeteria or a bus — the driver’s playing it. People are playing it on their phones. I mean, everyone is listening to her. She’s been with us right through her passing.

And I was looking at so many pictures of her through her whole life, and that smile. Oh, my God. That smile just lit up the world. So right now I can’t help smiling when thinking about her. I’ve experienced so much loss in my life, and I’ve gotten to the point, when people pass, sometimes the first thing I feel is the joy of when they were present. And she’s certainly given us a lot of joy.

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