They say deaths come in three’s.
Last month the saying held true with consistent prominent tragedies announced in as many weeks in August.
On Aug. 18, news from Bern, Switzerland revealed the death of Ghana’s Nobel Laureate and former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.
The statesman passed away at age 80 after a brief illness.
“Wherever there was suffering or need, he reached out and touched many people with his deep compassion and empathy,” the foundation he founded in 2007 said.
“Kofi Annan was a guiding force for good,” Antonio Guttieres, U.N. Secretary-General said.
“It is with profound sadness that I learned of his passing. In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations. He rose through the ranks to lead the organization into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination.”
Revered as a peacekeeper, humanitarian and diplomat, the Ghanaian diplomat was the seventh to serve in that position and the first African. He served two terms from 1997-2006.
Annan attempted to reform the bureaucracy that prolonged suffering throughout the world. His urgency to expedite progress placed him at odds with the George W. Bush administration particularly due to the fact he persistently insisted that the United States, the U.N.’s biggest contributor settle the $2 billion debt the nation owed.
Annan boldly defied pressure from the US to support the war in Iraq. Time and again he steered the Security Council to vote against the measure.
“I think that my darkest moment was the Iraq war, and the fact that we could not stop it,” Annan said in a February 2013 interview with TIME Magazine.
After publishing his memoir — “Interventions: A Life in War and Peace — he expressed regret that he could not prevent war in the Middle East.
“I worked very hard -- I was working the phone, talking to leaders around the world. The U.S. did not have the support in the Security Council,” Annan said during the interview.
“So they decided to go without the council. But I think the council was right in not sanctioning the war.”
“Could you imagine if the U.N. had endorsed the war in Iraq, what our reputation would be like?”
At that juncture President Bush described the U.N. as nearly irrelevant — “because we had not supported the war. But now we know better.”
Admired by fellow Nobel winner, peace advocate and former South African President Nelson Mandela, Annan’s top achievements included the promotion of human rights, fighting to close the gap between extreme poverty and immense wealth, and championing a campaign to fight infectious diseases — among them AIDS.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T Made Some Feel Like “Natural Woman”
Anyone who missed hearing “Respect” or “Natural Woman” on Aug. 16 were either devoid of radio, television, android or smart phones or lacked a few senses.
The songs signaled the death of the Memphis, Tennessee-born, gospel singer who adopted Detroit, Michigan as her home and from singing in a church her father pastured, emerged the internationally acclaimed Queen of Soul AKA Aretha Franklin.
She lost her battle with pancreatic cancer at age 76 and the world grieved, sang, danced and prayed for her soul.
Uptown at the Apollo Theater, fans converged in front of the Harlem landmark showplace she regularly performed.
With flowers, photos, and songbooks heralding her storied career, they camped out to regale the legacy she left as singer, actress, pianist, songwriter, Civil Rights activist, mother, daughter, role model and presidential favorite.
Four presidents lauded her contributions and invited her serenades. She performed at the inaugural gala for President Jimmy Carter and was presented with the Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton.
At the inauguration of the first Black president in 2009, at the request of President Barack Obama she belted “My Country, Tis of Thee.”
“American history wells up when Aretha sings,” President Obama said about her performance of “A Natural Woman” at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors.
“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.”
Franklin later recalled it as one of the best nights of her life.
She was the first female to be inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Her songs such a “Respect” and “Natural Woman” became anthems of these movements for social change.
“When Angela Davis was jailed in 1970, Franklin told Jet Magazine, “Angela Davis must go free, ... Black people will be free. I’ve been locked up (for disturbing the peace in Detroit) and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace. Jail is hell to be in. I’m going to see her free if there is any justice in our courts, not because I believe in communism, but because she’s a Black woman and she wants freedom for Black people.”
A memorial service was held at New Bethel Baptist Church on Aug. 19.
A public funeral was arranged for Aug. 31, following a two-day public viewing of Franklin’s casket at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American history in Detroit.
During those viewings, the acclaimed queen of soul had many outfit changes appearing first in red as a nod to her Delta fraternity. President Bill Clinton said each day he was anxious to see what she would be wearing. Reportedly she wore gold. The day prior she was dressed in blue.
The same classic white hearse that transported her father Rev. Cecil Franklin and Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks led a procession of 100 pink Cadillacs to her final tribute and resting place.
Many stories have been written about the lead car and those pastel colored vehicles received a fair amount of attention. Reportedly representing the Mary Kay cosmetic company in homage to Franklin’s “Freeway of Love” hit song which lyricized the automobiles with regard to Detroit, the cortege represented a sendoff befitting royalty.
Those attending her funeral included Whoopi Goldberg, Stevie Wonder, Faith Hill, Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Holiday, the Clark Sisters, Revs. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Min. Louis Farrakhan, Chaka Khan, Smokey Robinson, Ronnie Isley, Cong. Maxine Waters, Michael Eric Dyson, Gladys Knight, Isaiah Thomas, Yolanda Adams, Clive Davis, Cecily Tyson, Tyler Perry, Judge Greg Mathis, former attorney general Eric Holder, Shirley Cesar, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, a number of Baptist ministers and family members.
An all-star tribute concert to Franklin, celebrating her music, is scheduled for Nov. 14, at Madison Square Garden.
Sen. John McClain died Aug. 25, four days short of his 82nd birthday after battling cancer. In death, the Republican legislator managed to put the president’s tweeting obsession on pause as the nation focused on a hero who wrote his own guest list and send-off. Brave in life, brave in service and capture and brave to death he detailed instructions on how and where he wanted to make a final appearance.
That his 106-year-old mother would be observing might not have been proscribed however, what has been re-reported is that he did not want the 45th president of the United States to attend any of the rituals in his honor.
Instead he asked a political assembly of bi-partisan decision makers to his ritual. He instructed farewell services in his adopted and beloved Arizona as well as Washington DC which for 60 years became his second home.
And most poignantly, he wanted messages from Republican President George W. Bush and Democrats Barack Obama and William Clinton.
He did not make mention of his vice presidential partner Sarah Palin.
But wanted his longtime Democratic Party pal in the Senate, Sen. Joe Biden to offer sentiments. It seemed a welcome visual for the nation to see that numerous bipartisan senators and congresspersons could actually put on pause any differences in order to agree on one matter. The long list of high profile luminaries lauded life-long contributions and the media seemed in concert with the predominant opinions — that Sen. McCain was fair.
Stevie Wonder whose bid for a national holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King was relentlesly contested by Sen. McCain offered a tribute during a live Atlantic City, New Jersey concert. He dedicate a song to the politician he must have resented for a period of time.
“This song goes out to Sen. John McCain,” Wonder told the crowd. “I wanted to see him before he left this planet, but I didn’t see him. I didn’t get the chance. But he grew to know compassion was not about any political party. It was about loving people for just the way they are.”
The song was Billy Joe’s “Just The Way You Are.”
Sen. McCain requested Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” as the exit song from Arizona.
The tried and true hero, a former prisoner of the war in Vietnam is one of only 30 Americans to be honored with the distinction of lying in state at the US Capitol Rotunda. Voters in Arizona were privileged with a similar honor at the Arizona state capitol.
Sen. McCain was interned during a private ceremony at the US Naval Academy at Annapolis last Sunday where he entered military service in 1958 as a midshipman.
Catch You On The Inside!