How About a Little R-E-S-P-E-C-T for Aretha?

02/22/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Erica Heller Author, 'Yossarian Slept Here, When Joseph Heller Was Dad, the Apthorp Was Home, and Life Was a Catch-22'

Jesus, this is a tough crowd.

What's with everyone dissing the hat?

Why didn't anyone find it aesthetically logical? And in any case, who cares?

Whatever happened to personal style? Must we all look the same? Aretha's got gravitas and the cojones to take a risk. She's Aretha, for heaven's sake.

(And how's your singing, Ellen?)

Aretha was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. (Albeit by a colossal bonehead.) Rolling Stone magazine named her the #1 all time best singer of the rock era. She was the first black woman ever on the cover of Time Magazine. She's almost 70 years old. Can't she look the way she wants to?

This is America, not some bleak, narrow-minded fashion gulag. The woman is a goddess. The Queen of Soul. Larger-than-life and a living legend. She has brought so much joy, righteous feeling and passion to so many for so long that, hey, she could wear the Bronx Zoo on her head and I'd love it.

But as it happens, I loved the hat. It was classy, sassy, clever, unexpected and completely original, a glorious touch perched on a national treasure on a once in a lifetime day. In a country newly celebrating itself for its many hard-won freedoms.

The way I see it, love Aretha, love her hat. I do. And I did.

Still, people are wild. It's as if she wore a bathing cap, Sarah Palin's bloodied turkey, a Fez, bunny ears, a yarmulke!

She dressed for the occasion. It was a crisp, cold day and she was singing outdoors for her brand new President. Of course she wore a hat. She's got flair and nerve and verve and she is one in a gazillion. Was she supposed to wear a backwards baseball cap? Not in this lifetime. Instead, she put on something exhibiting quirky talent and fearless creativity. My country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, yes?

Aretha won't be around forever, but thank goodness, she's around now.

We're damned lucky to have her, hat and all.