May 29, 2014
A friend of mine on the Harvard faculty was sitting on the the huge stage on which Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul, delivered this rendition of the Star Spangled Banner at the Commencement Exercises in the outdoor Tercentenary Theatre, Harvard University. She sent me this video (courtesy of Harvard University)...you've got to see it.
I've heard the National Anthem sung a thousand times but not a single one of them this indelibly wrought. Ten seconds after Aretha began, her piano riffs transformed the feel of the celebration from a huge outdoor event celebrating the 2014 Harvard University Commencement to that of a small white-framed Baptist church on a Sunday morning. She got it all... the cadences, intonations and rhythms of her singing, the chords hammered home by her piano stylings right out of music that's been heard in the gospel tradition for well over a century.
Aretha Franklin was awarded an honorary Doctor of Arts degree today. This was her dissertation. Accepted unanimously.
The conferring of honorary degrees at Harvard's 363rd Commencement on May 29, 2014 at Tercentenary Theatre.VIDEO
This year's recipients include: Michael Bloomberg, Isabel Allende, President George H.W. Bush, Aretha Franklin, Patricia King, Peter H. Raven, Seymour Slive, and Joseph E. Stiglitz.
Past honorary degrees conferred https://www.harvard.edu/honorary-degrees