The Color of Memory

• Remembering Pete Seeger and Aretha Franklin

•  Sometimes memories come in a color

•  They come flooding back with the passing of people I was fortunate to meet

When Pete Seeger died in 2014 and Aretha Franklin passed away in 2018, I hadn’t yet created this blog. On those sad days I put down my thoughts in Facebook posts that have since faded into the cyber-mists. I bring them back here because I had noticed and was intrigued by the way my memories of those two musicians were saturated with colors. I can’t think of any other recollections like these that have a such a monochromatic bent. 

“White is what I remember most about my interview with Aretha Franklin for Good Morning America back in the late ‘80s.

A spring morning snowstorm threatened to postpone it, but my crew and I arrived on time. By the time we left, most of the white snow that covered the daffodils by her front door had melted away.

She wouldn’t fly, so we had been invited to her home in an upscale Detroit suburb. It was a large split-level, but hardly what one would expect a queen to reside in. The living room was white. White upholstery. Deep, white carpet. White baby grand piano. The crew and I were asked to remove our shoes and we set up for the interview in our socks. We got the room lit and waited for Aretha. And waited.

She was in the kitchen, just off the living room. With other women. Lots of voices, lots of laughter. It was late morning. What were they doing in there? Finally, she came out and we did a serviceable interview.

I’m afraid I couldn’t tell you what all we talked about. Undoubtedly her latest release, certainly a telescoped look at her career arc. I do remember when, a few years later, Ms. Franklin was the linchpin of VH1’s first “Divas” concert. It struck me that she was definitely the diva of her household. Not in the prima donna sense. She would simply hold court in her kitchen until she was good and ready to get down to business, talking in her living room.”  – August 15, 2018

Toshi and Pete Seeger

“Sometime during the 1990’s I had the honor of being invited up the winding, gravel road south of Beacon, New York, to Pete’s hilltop retreat – which he bought in the early 50’s for a song, so to speak – to interview him for a CNN Showbiz Today profile. It was early spring and from the kitchen table in their cozy cabin, through the new green leaves on the trees you could see the Hudson far below. Pete’s wife, Toshi, who passed away in 2013, forced coffee, tea and baked goods on the crew. It was just warm enough to set up outside, next to the barn/tool shed, and do the interview, Pete with his banjo on his knee, reminiscing, interspersing verses of his best-known songs. They were so gracious and hospitable. The day was so green, the visit so pastoral, the season so promising. It’s vivid in my memory today.”  – January 27, 2014


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