Aretha passed away a little under a month ago, and what a blow that was. While Aretha was up there in age, and she’d been ill for a while, it’s still crazy to think of a world without the Queen of Soul. “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” is another one of those songs that always seemed to end up on the jukebox at a Manhattan bar during my Tower days, when I’d work a late shift and then the entire closing staff would venture down a few blocks to some watering hole. There’s a place called Malachy’s on the Upper West Side-it’s still there as a matter of fact. Looks the same. Smells the same. Or we’d venture downtown and go to the Bleecker Street Bar (where I actually wound up last night) or McSorley’s, or some spot where they wouldn’t card (because I was quite underage for most of that period.) This was right around the time Rhino did the big Aretha reissue campaign, issuing many of her Atlantic albums on CD for the first time and releasing a two-part Very Best Of series that’s absolutely essential. Although it’s all on streaming services now, so no need to own a physical compilation unless you’re someone like me who actually enjoys owning stuff as opposed to renting it (no shade).
I’ve been trying to stay on track with these and not venture too far off into rambles, but death has been crazy on my mind lately. There was Aretha. Then Mac Miller, who was far too young and I’d just begun to enjoy listening to. I do a lot of mental health advocacy work and have my own ongoing mental health battles, so there’s the constant stream of my own struggles + the mental health struggles of my friends + occasionally being a mouthpiece for mental health issues, which is rewarding but can be draining. 9/11 was two days ago and that’s a heavy day as a New Yorker who was also a New Yorker seventeen years ago (as I type this). Also on Tuesday, a friend passed away. We weren’t bosom buddies, but hung out (one on one in addition to running in similar circles) a fair amount over the past 12-18 months. He wasn’t ill; apparently he had a heart attack. And was only three years older than me. With all of that, the fact that I’m sort of internally freaking out shouldn’t be a surprise (especially if you know me as a person). It’s weird to have people in your own age group (or younger) predecease you (or at least predecease me). I was telling a friend yesterday, that’s not a concept I expected to be incredibly familiar with because I kinda assumed I’d be dead before most of my friends and family members were. And while I’ve lost a fair amount of people in my life, the ones closest to my age were suicides or murders or disease. Which is heartbreaking and tragic but…a different kind of feeling. But here we are.
I don’t know what my point is. It’s just a really frightening time right now. Well, the world is frightening, so maybe that’s not what I mean. The uncertainty of life is VERY present to me right now, I guess is what I’m saying. Over the past few days, my brain has been doing a lot of WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE AND HOW DO I CHANGE IT BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE?? I certainly don’t have an answer.
Anyway, sorry for the tangent. I needed to get that off my chest. “Do Right Woman” also features one of Aretha’s bluesiest vocals (to my ears, anyway). While the Queen had one hell of a range, she really leans on the lower part of her natural voice here. It’s also strangely pyrotechnic-free for an Aretha song. She plays this one fairly straight. And packs just as hard a punch as if she’d shouted and squalled throughout.