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Barack Obama: Aretha Franklin 'captures the fullness of the American experience'

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Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS via Getty Images

The new issue of The New Yorker includes a profile of esteemed soul singer Aretha Franklin — and features words of praise from one of the 74-year-old’s high-profile fans. “American history wells up when Aretha sings,” President Barack Obama told the magazine’s editor David Remnick.

Obama referred both to Franklin’s legacy at large and her awe-inspiring performance of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” at December’s Kennedy Center Honors, which brought the president to tears. “Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R. & B., rock and roll — the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope,” Obama elaborated. “That’s why, when she sits down at a piano and sings ‘A Natural Woman,’ she can move me to tears — the same way that Ray Charles’s version of ‘America the Beautiful’ will always be in my view the most patriotic piece of music ever performed — because it captures the fullness of the American experience, the view from the bottom as well as the top, the good and the bad, and the possibility of synthesis, reconciliation, transcendence.”

Check out the full story over at The New Yorker.