When a cultural icon dies, it’s not surprising that New Yorkers take to the subway to express their tributes. Mass transit is after all, one of the more democratic spaces in any city, even in New York City despite all the service issues that have plagued the system. Prince and David Bowie have all had tributes in the subway following their passings. Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul who passed away yesterday morning from pancreatic cancer, also received an abundance. Fortuitously, two subway stations, Franklin Street and Franklin Avenue, bear her last name, and New Yorkers have gotten creative.

The Franklin Street 1 subway line stop has the most tributes, although by yesterday late afternoon, many had already been taken down. Under the tiled FRANKLIN ST signs on the down and uptown platforms, someone had put two song names by Aretha Franklin: R-E-S-P-E-C-T and I KNEW YOU WERE WAITING. Bowery Boogie, the first to report on these two pieces, tells us that the pieces went up prior to Franklin’s death as a “prayer tribute for her to get well.” Perhaps these two songs were also selected for their relevance to general subway riding etiquette and the infamous delays.

Photo courtesy Bowery Boogie

On the staircase, in black font on yellow tape, there were the words




On the black street signs on a column, someone had painted in white ARETHA above Franklin Street, under which someone later scrawled RESPECT. The Franklin Avenue C subway station in Crown Heights/Bedford-Stuyvesant border also got a street art tribute, in spray paint. [Update: The MTA has put up permanent tributes at both Franklin Street and Franklin Avenue].

Aretha Franklin was born in Memphis, Tennessee and grew up in Detroit, Michigan singing gospel at the church of her father, the notable minister C.L. Franklin. But her ties to New York City are strong, starting when she came to the city in 1960 to sign with Columbia Records. Numerous venues where she made her mark still exist as well, including the The Village Vanguard, The Apollo, and Madison Square Garden, where she performed in the most recent iteration of the Garden in June, just four months after it opened.

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