December 31, 2015

What's the deeper meaning of wearing a fur coat to sing "Natural Woman"?

"[Aretha] Franklin performed in her floor-length fur coat until stepping away from the piano to absolutely slay the final moments of her staple song, tossing her coat to the ground as the crowd jumped to its collective feet."

I lot can be said about this song. What does it mean not to feel "natural" as a woman? Are women unnatural without the man? If she only feels "like a natural woman," is that like the way Madonna felt "like a virgin." She wasn't a virgin, but she felt like one (for one reason or another).

So, it's already a puzzling song, subject to many interpretations. Okay: What does it mean to sing it in a fur coat?

And can you think of any other occasions when what the singer wore affected the meaning of the song? The first thing that crossed my mind was Marlene Dietrich singing "Give Me The Man" while dressed in a tuxedo. But I don't think that's a good answer.

ADDED: "Her mouth was as wise as her eyes … and her voice was like her coat, rich and supple, and somehow full of secrets," wrote Patricia Highsmith in "The Price of Salt," which is now a big Oscar-begging movie called "Carol." The coat, a fur coat, looms large, as the costume designer Sandy Powell explained. It was "probably the most important item to get right."
"It’s those descriptions that don’t say what colour or shape it is or anything like a clue.” To interpret that impression of sexy, conspiratorial opulence, she says, she knew it had to be a blond mink, not brown, and not light or flashy.
Fur is big now and deeply meaningful.

36 comments:

rhhardin said...

Pubic hair.

Bob Ellison said...

Boy George.

Sebastian said...

"And can you think of any other occasions when what the singer wore affected the meaning of the song?" Every single opera ever performed?

Gusty Winds said...

Was it real fur? Last week Miranda Lambert posted a picture of herself in a fur coat her Grandmother gave her, and the SJW's went nuts on Twitter.

MadisonMan said...

My opinion: People wear big coats to hide flaws. (That it was fur is incidental)

Then she decided she'd shed the fur and reveal all because, you know, she's a natural woman.

William said...

The PC crowd will be as silent about Franklin's fur coat as they were about Cosby's hobbies. But if Franklin said that she was coming out for Trump, the PETA people would be dousing her with red paint every time she appeared in public.

Scott M said...

Occam's Razor. The simplest answer is that Aretha is from the future, when most of humanity are vat-grown and detanked, rather than conceived and born. It's well known in that time that vat-grown nerve endings do not provide the same level of tactile feedback that natural human nerves enjoy. Thus, when she finds someone that really curls her toes back, she believes that's what it feels like to be a natural woman. Summary: Aretha Franklin is clone. A very talented clone, but a clone nonetheless.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

I wonder how many women are animal skinners? Someone has to do it, to get furs. Bet it's men, otherwise know as the patriarchy.

holdfast said...

Caitlin Jenner could not be reached for comment.

I Callahan said...

Aretha Franklin has worn fur coats, stoles and the like, for years. There is no meaning to it other than she likes it.

Roughcoat said...

What does it mean not to feel "natural" as a woman?

It's an idiom for feeling fulfilled as a woman: which is to say, for realizing the fulfillment of one's being.

Good grief, isn't this obvious? What wrong with you, that this meaning eludes you?

mikee said...

Gene Kelly was dressed for indoors, yet carried an umbrella, while perforning Singing In The Rain.

I see the umbrella as a phallic object in this famous dance scene, demonstrating and celebrating the patriarchy's delusional belief in their superiority over, and domination of, the entire world, even the freaking weather. Until the umbrella is unfurled, that is, when it becomes more of an umbrellic object, and has only utilitarian meaning as a device for avoiding rainfall or twirling around the dancing form of Mr. Kelly.

We won't talk about his hat and the womb/vagina/taboo it represents. Too triggering.

Martha said...

Aretha wore the fur coat to cover the unsightly wattle of her upper arms.

She threw off the fur coat when she got too hot following the exertion from belting out that song.

The coat was beautiful IMHO.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm trying to think of a performance of a song where the lyrics would mean one thing in one outfit and something else while wearing something else.

Opera was mentioned. I think of that clown outfit in "Pagliacci" and the well-known aria "Vesti la giubba." But the singer is a clown and he's singing about putting on his costume. So I'm more asking for a situation in which let's say some opera singer sang "Vesti la giubba" and he's got something other than a clown costume and that other costume changes the meaning of the words: "Put on your costume, powder your face. The people pay to be here, and they want to laugh...."

n.n said...

Are women unnatural without the man

Why, yes. Yes, they are. The same for a man without a woman. It's the natural order. Established, ironically, by the matriarchy, Mother Nature.

FWBuff said...

"And can you think of any other occasions when what the singer wore affected the meaning of the song?"

In "Cabaret", the Emcee sings the sweet song "If You Could See Her Through My Eyes" as he dances with his on-stage girlfriend, who is wearing a gorilla costume (fur!).

Of course, the punch-line answer ("She wouldn't look Jewish at all!") is made all the more sinister because of the Berlin setting and her costume.

Bob Ellison said...

When Darth Vader sings "Strangers in the Night" to Obi-Wan Kenobi, I think Darth's outfit suggests sarcasm.

Quaestor said...

And can you think of any other occasions when what the singer wore affected the meaning of the song?

Anything sung by Cher. For example, a rather puerile little ditty which which wears its anti-bigotry heart on its sleeve transformed by costuming (or lack thereof) into burlesque.

J2 said...

"YMCA". The Village People

Bill said...

I was reminded upon the shedding of the fur coat of Joe Mankiewicz' remark to Liz Taylor that her upper arms looked like bags of dead mice.

Bay Area Guy said...

I'd like to see some wacko from PETA splash Ms. Franklin with some fake blood -- and then get an ass-whooping.

Sean Gleeson said...

Um, the 1989 song "Roam" by the B-52's ("Roam if you want to, Roam around the world...") might have acquired a different meaning if they had been wearing the armor of Roman legionaries while singing it?

Hagar said...

Aretha Franklin is great, but I could do without the people who write about her.

Ann Althouse said...

"When Darth Vader sings "Strangers in the Night" to Obi-Wan Kenobi, I think Darth's outfit suggests sarcasm."

Made me think of "Puttin' on the Ritz" in "Young Frankenstein."

Ann Althouse said...

"Aretha Franklin is great, but I could do without the people who write about her."

She's very extravagant in her style of singing, so it would work a lot better if people wrote about her with restraint. On me, at least.

Reddington said...

I Callahan said...
Aretha Franklin has worn fur coats, stoles and the like, for years. There is no meaning to it other than she likes it.


This. Not everything has a deeper meaning.

MathMom said...

I'm glad she's wearing a fur coat. Shows she's impervious to the current trends in self-righteousness, just like Donald Trump.

I wore my friend's mink coat while in Fairbanks one February. People wear fur for good reasons - it's warm, and is wonderful to touch. I'm gonna get a fur coat!

Bill said...

Here she is, in her prime. I love the restraint with which she sings, compared to today's melisma-mired screamers. The backup singers are lovely, too.

walter said...

Fish on bicycles!

john mosby said...

Gleeson, I always think of Rome when I hear that B-52s song. Probably had something to do with "The Last Temptation of Christ" coming out a few months before.

JSM

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

I adore that song; it brings me to tears. It is special to me and my husband, who is my second and the love of my life. After many years of an unhappy first marriage, in which I was isolated and unappreciated by a cold, distant and critical man, I understand just what she means. I feel like a natural woman in my husband's love--strong, self-assured, beautiful and cherished just as I am. I feel inspired to be a better version of myself by his side, but always comfortable and relaxed without anxiety or doubt that maybe he would love me more if I were more this or that. It's a magnificent gift.

Ann Althouse said...

"Here she is, in her prime. I love the restraint with which she sings, compared to today's melisma-mired screamers. The backup singers are lovely, too."

That's more restrained than the usual extravagance, but the most famous version of that song, by Dionne Warwick, is more elegantly restrained. It's all a matter of taste.

Ann Althouse said...

@I Have Misplaced My Pants

It's nice when song lyrics have special meaning for you. Whether that's what Carole King had in mind when she wrote it, that's what the words have come to mean for you. Lyrics can work like that even when misunderstood. I have a Bob Dylan song that has an almost mystical meaning to me, particular to me. I now know the backstory to the lyrics, and it's not like what I projected onto it. But you seem to put some of your idea of the meaning on matching what King had in mind (or is it what Aretha has in mind, which might not be the same thing?). This reminds me of issues in constitutional law -- text, original intent, etc.

MathMom said...

I Have Misplaced My Pants -

Good on you. I "traded up", too, and life has been so very good. When you get the right man, he can be like fertilizer in good soil - you can become what you need to be.

I'm happy for you.

BN said...

"It's all a matter of taste."

Is "fur burgers" still used in polite society? I thought it was passé.

el polacko said...

as noted above, aretha has always liked furs so there's no special significance there. it was the effective bit of theatrical business of dropping the obviously expensive coat to the floor like a dirty rag at the emotional highpoint of the song that brought a roaring audience to its feet. it was a powerful moment but i still prefer the time she ripped the wig right off her head and tossed it away...THAT's gettin' religion.