With a musical tribute from the RTÉ Concert Orchestra broadcasting on RTÉ Radio 1 this Bank Holiday Monday (August 2nd), Saibh Downes celebrates the singular legacy of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin - listen to the RTÉ Concert Orchestra Presents special, hosted by Fiachna O'Braonáin above...

Through her music, Aretha Franklin told us her story – her battle against racial injustice and gender inequality, the power of womanhood, the blind ecstasy of love, the devastation of heartbreak and the toxicity of abusive relationships. Through her song, Aretha spoke her truth. To this day, her music speaks profoundly about who we are and what we go through. So many of us have felt the same highs and lows as she once did. Aretha's music is our music.

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Aretha’s compulsion to vocalize her realities so honestly is what draws us in. Her 1967 single Chain of Fools is a perfect example of this frankness. The song is a confession. Aretha knows that her lover is being unfaithful. She is aware of her role as a mere link in a chain of fellow foolish women, but still she stays, complicit in her lover’s disrespect, and continuing in a relationship defined by infidelity.

"For five long years

I thought you were my man

But I found out, love

I’m just a link in your chain"

The track’s backing vocals continually sing interpolated repetitions of the word "chain". These recurring utterances are indicative of an unceasing cycle – akin to a physical chain and the nature of Aretha’s toxic relationship.

"You told me to leave you alone My father said, "Come on home" My doctor said, "Take it easy" Oh, but your loving is much too strong"

This song reminds us of the irrational things we do when we love someone. We may know that our lover is no good for us, but we just can’t seem to let them go. We can’t live with them, but ultimately, we can’t live without them.

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Ain’t No Way was released in 1968 on the Lady Soul album as a B-side track. The ballad was composed by Aretha’s younger sister Carolyn. The softly articulated drummed back-beat sets the scene for Aretha’s voice to soar as she enunciates every word as if it’s leaping out from her soul – a soul consumed by heartbreak. Her love has left her and she is desperately pleading for his return.

"Ain’t no way for me to love you

If you won’t let me"

On the surface, the legendary 1967 single (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman refers to the validation that comes from having a romantic partner, when in fact, the song has another meaning. The lyrics can be interpreted as a celebration of feminine power and the strength that comes from being secure in your womanhood.

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Watch: Aretha Franklin singing (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. in 2016, celebrating songwriter Carole King

In April 1967, Aretha’s rendition of Otis Redding’s track Respect was released. This cover was to become one of the singer’s most famous songs. The lyrics of the original version propagated sexist sentiment, upholding archaic familial values, "Man works all day, man comes home for dinner and demands respect from his wife". Aretha reformed the song, turning it effectively turning it into a feminist anthem.

The song acquired a new significance against the backdrop of the 1967 US Race Riots of the Civil Rights Movement. This track encapsulated the feelings of those striving to achieve racial equality. The declamatory tone of Aretha's assertions, spelling out the operative word 'R-E-S-P-E-C-T’ left no room for ambiguity as to what the message of the song was. It was time for change, and this song signified that.

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The 1985 single Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves was a collaboration between Aretha and British pop duo Eurythmics. The song explicitly condemns misogynistic societal norms and sexist stereotypes, asserting the power of the modern, independent woman.

"Now this is a song to celebrate

The conscious liberation of the female state!

Mothers, daughters, and their daughters too

Woman to woman

We’re singin’ with you"

Aretha Franklin is renowned for her covers. Often, her renditions – which use a blend of soul, gospel and RnB styles, are more successful than the originals. This bank holiday programme features Franklin’s well-known versions of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s You’re All I Need to Get By, Dusty Springfield’s Son of a Preacher Man, and Dionne Warwick’s I Say a Little Prayer and Walk On By.

Aretha’s music moves us. Her instinctive musicality, vocal mastery and profound soulfulness produces music of the highest emotive quality. Listening to her sing is an experience that evokes the deepest sentiment within us. This is what music is all about. Aretha Franklin truly is the Queen of Soul.

The RTÉ Concert Orchestra presents the music of Aretha Franklin, RTÉ Radio 1, Monday, August 2nd at 2 pm