BOSTON (CBS) – There’s a remarkable moment in history playing out over the next couple of days, the funerals of two world-famous people who exemplified the best of a sometimes-overlooked generation of Americans.

Aretha Franklin will be remembered at a funeral service in Detroit Friday, both musically with performances by Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and others, and rhetorically, by speakers including former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. If you watch you may learn about the courage Aretha showed as a female performer in a male-dominated industry and as a civil rights activist who was never afraid to speak her mind.

On Saturday, Senator John McCain’s memory will be honored in Washington, with eulogies from Mr. Obama and former President George W. Bush, a chance for the uninitiated to learn more about his work ethic and moral courage.

John McCain (Photo credit PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images) and Aretha Franklin. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

They were both members of the so-called silent generation of Americans born between 1925 and 1945, a relatively small group often overshadowed by the saga of the so-called greatest generation that preceded them and the baby boomers who followed them.

They were born in times of economic depression and global war, and did their best to create something positive out of that adversity, Aretha with her music, McCain with his commitment to freedom and fair play.

The silent generation is in their 70s, 80s and 90s now, and with each passing year we realize the irony of their nickname. Aretha Franklin and John McCain were anything but silent. And while they are now gone, their legacies will continue to speak loudly.

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Comments (3)
  1. Theodore Oule says:

    Pillars of a generation? Come on, Jon.

    Neither were notable for their contributions to society…even though I view both music an politics essential to the human condition.

    McCain’s star won’t last out the decade. He will be known for his failed campaign finance reform bill and having lost the Republicans the presidency in 2008 His vindictiveness is becoming the stuff of legend.

    Franklin’s star will last far longer, but history, the great leveler of talent, probably won’t let Aretha’s work last much more than half-a-century, except in the thinking of those dedicated to late jazz, and early rock music.

    And, yes, I saw Ms Franklin a number of times at the Newport Jazz Festival when it was in Freebody Park. She was a wonderful performer but no Louis Armstrong, or Dizzy Gillespi, or Max Roach, or David Brubeck.

  2. Wow, what a send off for the Queen of Soul. A nine hour tribute to the life of Lady, who broke barriers in a male dominated music industry. Not to many people realize. How tough it was, for anyone to make it in the music industry, yet alone a woman. Not only was it tough, to record a record under am major label. It was tough over the radio. Her music made everyone, who listened to it feel good. Her funeral musical and oral tributes, from Entertainers, Politicians, and even former Presidents. Along with thousands of regular people.
    John McCain is also receiving a worthy send off as a Veteran, Hero, and Statesmen. He’s being honored by both friend, and foe. You may not have liked Senator McCain for his all out honesty. As to how he felt about an issue, or even an individual. However he was dedicate to his constituents, and to his duty in serving them, and his country

    1. Theodore Oule says:

      Sorry…I don’t by the “greatness” bit for either. Franklin was talented, but Great?

      Mozart was great. So was Bach (all of them), Handl, Vaughn Williams. The list is long. The key is that it is music that history sees as extraordinary…

      I have yet to hear any of Franklin’s work being played except for a very narrow audience.

      As for McCain? I stand by my comment. He was a senator; even a senator of note. But great?

      He has a long way to go to top some of the REAL statesmen that have come from that body.

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