My grandmother always used to say that singing is like praying twice. When you reach out for that note with feeling, when you say what you mean and you mean what you say — that's when God (or whatever your own concept of divinity is) becomes so infinitely closer that you can feel their grace.

But in Aretha's case, she was right there next to them all along.

I started singing professionally at the age of 14 in a gospel choir; needless to say, Aretha took me there. And even though I knew I would never be half as close to the stars as she was, whenever my immature teenage-self took a step forward to do the 'Say A Little Prayer' solo, I did catch a glimpse of how unmentionably beautiful it is to enter the entrancing wavelength of unconditional bliss that is sending your spirit out there into the universe.

Aretha Franklin's voice was a prayer in itself, and listening to her always makes you feel like you're under some form of divine protection, directly linked to a special channel to that superior place of beatitude where sound ceases to be a mere sensation and becomes a powerful driving force that connects you to everything else.

Freedom never sounded so bright and clear and true as when Aretha sang it. But how can you even try and define it through the supernatural entity that is her voice? There's pride and joy, but also sorrow and pain; there's the little girl teaching the wounded bird how to fly, but also the broken woman, prostrated and tired, unable to feed her child. Yet it always rings like a light in the deepest darkness, for it is indeed miraculous the way that it resonates through our soul like a reminder of faith, ultimately saving us from despair.

So whenever you listen to Aretha, remember you've been blessed a thousand times; you might as well join in and scream amen.