This note to a friend refers to 'Amazing Grace', a film of Aretha Franklin aged 29 recording the most successful gospel album to date in a Los Angeles church in 1972, directed by Sydney Pollack, released spring 2019.
The cinema was dark and almost empty. I could sit anywhere so I sat near the front, right in the middle. Oh my, have you seen it, you have to see it. It will live on. It must. Oh what am I saying, it will anyway. A true witness cannot help but carry the experience in their heart and there I go that may not at all be true.
She is her own woman entirely. The feathered coat, the rhythm in her walk, all her life experience already, a child at 13 was it? and pain and mastery and assuredness of a woman who understands her success. But along with the audience in the church and the choir and her vulnerable father and the pastors and the camera operator out of focus and the audio that breaks down and the earnest Jesus painting on the wall, there’s a visceral humility in her presence, and a sense with her and everyone present that they are all in their own ways broken and true and trying to be in service. And then she tilts her head and opens her mouth and the luminous sound of angels fills the hall and all two of us in the cinema - is she crying? - we’re all crying. We’re crying for the the person we always wanted to be, that she is calling us to be, amazing grace.
Photo: Express Newspapers/Hulton Archive/Getty Images