Singing great Aretha Franklin passed away Thursday morning after a battle with pancreatic cancer, and her fans are looking back on her most amazing performances and special relationships as they mourn this loss. As many people know, Franklin had a very special connection with former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama and Aretha stepped up to sing at some key moments of his political career. Aretha’s passing is causing worldwide heartbreak, and it is clear that Barack and Michelle Obama are feeling sad over this enormous loss as well.
Rolling Stone details some of Aretha Franklin’s most notable moments with President Barack Obama. The outlet shares that Obama’s love for Franklin was visible throughout much of his time in politics. Perhaps most notably, she sang at his 2009 inauguration. Aretha performed “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” which was a rather subdued performance in terms of the icon’s typical style.
Franklin also performed in front of Obama at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors, and this may be many people’s favorite moment involving the two. Her rendition of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” not only garnered a standing ovation from those in attendance, it notably brought the president to tears. Aretha attended at least one rally while Barack was running for president and she performed in front of him many times during his time in the White House. It was always clear that they both held a very special place in one another’s hearts.
In 2016, Barack shared with the New Yorker some insight into why he loved her so much and explained why Aretha’s singing of that particular song can move him to tears.
“Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R.&B., rock and roll—the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope. That’s why, when she sits down at a piano and sings ‘A Natural Woman,’ she can move me to tears… because it captures the fullness of the American experience, the view from the bottom as well as the top, the good and the bad, and the possibility of synthesis, reconciliation, transcendence.”
It did not take long for Barack and Michelle to put out a statement following the official confirmation of Aretha’s passing. Heavy shared the statement, and the Obamas noted that Franklin helped to define the American experience. Barack and Michelle’s statement shared their hope that the Queen of Soul would rest in eternal peace and they sent their prayers and sympathies to everybody who loved her.
“In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade—our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. She helped us feel more connected to each other, more hopeful, more human. And sometimes she helped us just forget about everything else and dance.”
Millions around the world are mourning the death of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin touched people’s lives and energized their souls for decades. While it had become known that she was gravely ill, the news of her passing has still left many stunned. The singer’s performances for former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle will surely go down as some of her most iconic, and revisiting those clips and the special connection Franklin and the Obamas had will certainly bring tears of happiness to those who treasured her.