aretha franklin

Aretha Franklin Sang ‘My Country ’Tis of Thee’ at Obama’s First Inauguration and Restored the Union

A long time ago in (2009) in an America far, far away (this one), Aretha Franklin, who died today at 76, performed at Barack Obama’s first presidential inauguration. Moments before Obama was sworn in as the nation’s first black president, Aretha — Queen of Soul and singer of civil-rights anthems — gave a stunning live rendition of “My Country ’Tis of Thee.” And Aretha, in today’s parlance, freaked it! In a hat accessorized with a bow befitting Blair Waldorf, Aretha Franklin brought the (White) house down.

But because it was Aretha Franklin, queen of soul and shade, she didn’t sit out the controversy cycle at Barack Obama’s next inauguration, when Beyoncé performed. After news surfaced that Beyoncé used a backing track to the national anthem, Franklin had to chuckle. “When I heard [Beyoncé lip-synced] I just really cracked up. I thought it was really funny, but she did a beautiful job with the prerecord,” Franklin said at the time. The Queen of Soul only served the real thing, honey: “I wanted to give people the real thing and prerecording never crossed my mind.”

Aretha Franklin and Hat Performed at Obama’s Inauguration