With a voice of great magnitude that will echo throughout the halls of history for decades to come, the late Aretha Franklin left an indelible legacy. In her 76 years, Franklin was a powerhouse who couldn't be toppled, a musician of thunderous conviction and rousing theatrics. She was a great talent, and her death was a great loss. There are many ways for music lovers around the world to commemorate the untimely death of such a wondrous singer. And this week, Franklin posthumously received one of her greatest tributes. The singer became the first woman to receive a Pulitzer special award and citation.
As it was reported by The Hill, Aretha Franklin became the first woman to receive this distinction since the honor was created in 1930. In that time, 41 people have been recognized and awarded this revered prize, including fellow musicians Bob Dylan and Duke Ellington. But Franklin became the first woman in nearly 50 years to be given this distinction. As it was noted, the Queen of Soul is honored for “her indelible contribution to American music and culture for more than five decades."
There is no denying it is an incredible and very justified achievement; it's a deep and mournful shame that Aretha Franklin wasn't there to receive it in person. Last year, the soulful singer died after a long, largely private battle with pancreatic cancer.
Neil Brown, Poynter’s president and a Pulitzer Prize board member, celebrated Aretha Franklin's recent dedication by saying the following in a recent statement:
The Pulitzer Prizes, and these special award citations, stand for work of breadth, excellence and consequence in making our society a better place to be. Aretha Franklin’s contributions remain deep, inspiring and altogether fitting of such recognition.
It should be noted that, while the special award and citation has been given to institutions that include women in the past, Aretha Franklin is the first woman to be honored in a singular fashion. While that is a long overdue distinction, Aretha Franklin is certainly a woman worth celebrating in this revered, incredible fashion.
Additionally, Aretha Franklin became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock 'N' Roll Hall Of Fame. The powerhouse singer was given this celebration in 1987.
Recognizing the great moment in history this achievement represents, Roy Peter Clark of Poynter also commented on Aretha Franklin's memorial win by hoping it would bring a great sea of change for the Pulitzer community and it will hopefully welcome more diversity in their honorary selections. Here's what the writer wrote.
My hope is that this prize to Aretha will accelerate a pattern of recognition by the Pulitzer Prizes. Going back a century, there were countless African Americans and women who had little or no chance to win an award in any category because of their race or gender. The great poet Langston Hughes comes to mind. What if the Pulitzer folks began a concerted effort to repair such neglect and inequity by looking back every year and honoring those who — against many odds — contributed so much to American culture?
By including Aretha Franklin into this prestigious ceremony and providing the late soul singer this historical distinction, Aretha Franklin's incredible legacy continues to shine. And this prize allows the musician's awe-striking voice to continue to be heard for years upon generations to come, an honor that is quite greatly deserved.