You Cannot Define a Person On Just One Thing. You Can’t Just Forget All These Wonderful and Good Things That a Person Has Done

Aretha Franklin? Whitney Houston? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The reputation and legacy of an individual can be seriously damaged by a single misstep. The advent of social media networks has supercharged the transmission of detrimental material.

Apparently, U.S. singer Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, once called for more empathy and understanding. She stated that one should not define a person because of one thing; one should not forget the fantastic and admirable things a person has done. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In February 2012 Aretha Franklin was deeply saddened when she learned that fellow singer Whitney Houston had died. She spoke to journalist Al Roker of the U.S. television show “Today”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Franklin, 69, also told Roker that she hopes people will remember Houston for her talent instead of focusing on her admitted drug use and odd behavior of recent years.

“You cannot define a person on just one thing,” she said. “You can’t just forget all these wonderful and good things that a person has done because one thing didn’t come off the way you thought it should come off.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 2018 the quotation was posted on the Reddit website within the subreddit r/quotes. Aretha Franklin received credit, but no citation was given. 2

By 2012 the quotation appeared on BrainyQuote with an attribution to Aretha Franklin. No supporting citation was provided. 3

In conclusion, Aretha Franklin deserves credit for the words she spoke in February 2012 on the “Today” show. Her statements were reported in the “Detroit Free Press” of Michigan shortly afterwards.

(Great thanks to Carrie Poppy whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Poppy sent the quotation together with the Aretha Franklin attribution, and she requested a solid citation.)

Notes:

  1. 2012 February 18, Detroit Free Press, Names+Faces: Aretha: Star’s Legacy Lives, Quote Page 2D, Column 2, Detroit, Michigan. (Newspapers_com)
  2. Website: Reddit, Subreddit: r/quotes, Posted by: u/Moist_Cankles, Date on website: August 16, 2018, Website description: Social news aggregator and discussion website. (Accessed reddit.com on February 19, 2021) link
  3. Website: BrainyQuote, Article title: Aretha Franklin Quotes, Publisher: BrainyMedia Inc., Website description: BrainyQuote contains a massive compilation of quotations; unfortunately, many of the quotations and attributions are inaccurate. (Accessed brainyquote.com on February 19, 2021) link