Let’s face it, 2018 was not a very good year. The nation seemed to become even more divided and at times it felt like the whole world was about to come apart at the seams. In the midst of this darkness came the devastating news that we had lost the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. On August 13, the great lady died from pancreatic cancer. Her life was celebrated in a majestic memorial service that was held at Greater Grace Temple in her hometown of Detroit on August 31. Aretha’s prominence was such that the service was streamed by several major news networks.
One of the last albums that Aretha ever recorded was a Christmas album. This Christmas was released as a Borders Bookstore (remember them?) exclusive on October 14, 2008, and reissued by DMI the following year. Sadly, the album, which was a blend of holiday classics like “Ave Maria,” and more modern fare like the Gamble and Huff-penned “Christmas Ain’t Christmas (Without the One You Love),” failed to crack the Top 100.
In November of this year, Rhino Records released This Christmas on vinyl for the first time ever. The company also released for digital consumption an extraordinary, newly-mixed solo piano version of Aretha singing “Silent Night.” It’s as if the great diva has left us one last holiday gift.
We’re all caught up in the rush of the season so I’ll keep it short this week. I wanted to give you something beautiful to listen to this Christmas. If hearing Aretha sing this classic accompanied only by herself on the piano doesn’t give you goosebumps, you’re stronger than I am. Most of all, I want to wish all of the readers of this column a very Merry Christmas wrapped in the warm embrace of family and friends.