Thursday, January 22, 2009

My Country Tis of Thee

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?


dive said...

To see Marian singing in front of Old Craggy is awesome, Robyn. Thank you for finding this for us.
A huge hoorah for Eleanor Roosevelt for sticking it to the Man.

As for Aretha. Her voice tears me to pieces. She totally rules.

Mark said...

That's a wonderful clip, what an amazing voice.

My how far we've come, from having Constitution Hall closed to such a talent, to having the White House open to an African American family. It's a good day to be an American.

lynn said...

I loved seeing her, Robyn. Ok she was 'off' a few times musically, dare I say, but hey, it's Aretha. Sounding beautiful mostly. Wow!

savannah said...

in our life time, sugar! xoxo

Happy Heart Princess said...

Thank you for the reminder of what has changed. When I think back to the 50's and 60's, it's amazing. We need to continue to hold these images up as the younger kids just don't realize how it was. Thank you for the clip! and by the way. . . Aretha rocks!

Lulubelle B said...

Just saw this clip today on The Chris Matthews Show on NBC. I wonder if he got the idea here?