OK, so Aretha Franklin wore a funky hat to sing My County Tis of Thee at the inauguration on Tuesday. Some people thought she stunk even though others were moved to tears. I was one of them, one of the ones who was moved to tears.
I actually liked her hat—it's Aretha. She can wear whatever she wants. While she sang, what struck me more so than her clothes was the contrast between her circumstances at that moment and the circumstances of Marian Anderson in 1939.
Marian Anderson, the world-renowned singer who Toscanini said had a voice "heard once in a hundred years," wanted to sing in Washington, D.C. Constitution Hall was the place to do that at the time, the place where all the well-known classical musicians performed, but she was refused because of her race. The building was operated by the Daughters of the American Revolution, and this racist act led a lot of people to withdraw their membership from the DAR, Eleanor Roosevelt included.
Roosevelt arranged for Anderson to sing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday of that year, and 75,000 people of all races showed up to hear her. Among other numbers, she sang My Country Tis of Thee even though so much of it was off limits to her.
Here is some old footage of her performance in her considerably discreet hat. Just as with Aretha's performance, I find it difficult to listen to without being moved to tears. How about you?