Growing up in Brooklyn, New York in the 80’s one of my hero’s was my cousin Cecil. He was closer to a brother than a cousin in all honesty. Anything that he was into whether it was rap music, wrestling or whatever popular TV show he was into I would always follow suit.
Sometime in 1987 my cousin Cecil owned a copy of the now famous Wrestlemania 3 VHS which used to hang out of his VCR on a daily basis. Eventually after days and weeks of continuously seeing that tape sitting there asking to be watched I decided to watch that tape with him.
There a wrestling obsession began.
Something else I also discovered on that tape.
It was the first time I saw Aretha Franklin perform. At age 7 I knew virtually nothing about her. Then again who’s going to go out of their way at age 7 to educate a child about the greatness of probably the greatest female vocalist in the history of music. Maybe age 10. Certainly not at 7 years old.
Yet here she was. In the middle of Pontiac Silverdome in her hometown of Detroit Michigan. In front of 93,000 plus fans. At the beginning of Wrestlemania 3, Aretha Franklin was introduced with such respect and passion by the CEO of the World Wrestling Federation Vince McMahon as she started on the piano the first chords of America: The Beautiful.
I paid close attention. The voice was incredible. I never forgot that performance ever again. And as I got older I was able to appreciate not just that singular performance. I was able to recognize Aretha Franklin and her eternal greatness. Everytime I watch that performance at Wrestlemania 3, it gives me goosebumps each and EVERYTIME.
Yes my WWF obsession kicked off that night. But Aretha Franklin for the first time was on my radar.
And I never looked back ever since.
Also worth noting that my all time favorite song of hers “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” was actually the official theme song for Wrestlemania 3 which was played at the end of the event.
Aretha passed away today at the age of 76. She will always be the true queen of soul. And yet it was an outlier such as the World Wrestling Federation that introduced me to her.
Yet it makes so much sense.
Rest In Power, Aretha.