Aretha Franklin was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize

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Aretha Franklin’s Amazing Grace | still from film

When the Pulitzer Prize winners were announced yesterday, the legendary gospel / R&B / rock / soul force of nature Aretha Franklin received a posthumous Special Citation award.

Franklin passed away on August 16 of last year following a fight with pancreatic cancer. Prior to that, she spent more than a half century working in music: singing in the gospel circuit during her teenage years, becoming a pop star in the 60s, and continuing recording and performing for the rest of her life, from a late 90s collab with Lauryn Hill to her final U.S. tour in 2017.

The Pulitzer committee said that the Special Citation — which is a discretionary award that judges have the option to give when they find necessary — was awarded to Franklin for “her indelible contribution to American music and culture for more than five decades.” She is the 44th person in the 101-year history of the awards to receive one. However, many responses to the Pulitzer Prize’s Twitter announcement of Franklin’s award, while celebrating Franklin and the recognition she received, echo the sentiments of Twitter user Erica from Ft. Lauderdale: “Give the people their flowers when they are alive.” Hear, hear.

In other Franklin-related news, the Amazing Grace documentary hit theaters two weeks ago, and if you have not yet seen it, we here at The Key strongly suggest you rectify that as soon as possible. The on-the-fly film captures the recording of her 1972 live album of the same name, and shows her performing selections of gospel songs from her youth, and then-contemporary pop songs re-imagined in the gospel spirit, at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles.

Though it’s visually a bit rough around the edges — the original release was scrapped due to “technical difficulties,” and even if we consider that the film crew might have been working in the verité style of the era, one can’t help wishing they’d tried harder to make their footage a bit less sloppy — Franklin works the mic like a goddess, and whatever your religious persuasion, when she and the Southern California Community Choir launch into “How I Got Over” or “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” it’s impossible to remain unmoved. Amazing Grace is screening locally at the Ritz East, and opens Friday, April 19th, at the Ambler Theater, the County Theater in Doylestown, and the Hiway Theater in Jenkintown.

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