Mean it Like Aretha — How to Make Art that Matters













When a 60’s soul singer’s voice rattles something deep inside of you, there’s a reason. #music Click To Tweet

When a movie or book changes the way you understand the world, there’s a reason.

When a painting or photograph stirs you at the core, there’s a reason.

There actually may be many reasons, but there’s at least one big one in common— the artist/s who made these things imprint their hearts, minds and souls into their creations. This is no trivial matter.

So much ‘commercial art’ —Hollywood movies, chart topping songs, stock photos— lacks the heat and integrity of true artists. Although they may be technically top notch and often connect with a wide audience, it’s almost always for a brief instant.

The people who create successful ‘products’ like these typically enjoy plenty of financial success. Good for them. Except many times, the more successful they get, the more desperate, lonely and depressed they become. Think of your favorite train wreck celebrity, drug addled pop star or stressed out creative freelancer.

Among other things, this happens when an artist gets cut off from the core of what they love in pursuit of the dollars. Their vision gets obscured, their hearts get sour, their vision gets warped. They trade their talents, time and wonders for a bigger paycheck.

On the music building at the college I attended there was an inscription that I remember clearly.

Music is a gift from God and must be used unto His Glory.

Although it wasn’t a religious school, and I’m not so keen on Bible quotes (or references), it struck a chord. I believe it means that all creativity originates from a higher source, and if you’re fortunate enough, and practiced enough, to tap into it, you really should do something worthwhile with it.

What’s worthwhile to one may not be worthwhile to another, and that’s cool. We all write our own rules and make our own histories. At the end of the day you will know.

It’s pretty obvious that when Aretha sang R.E.S.P.E.C.T. she meant it. How much shit had she been through? How much anguish? How much rage and pride and hurt and passion had been boiling inside her before the day she finally got to blast it into the microphone for the world to hear?

If you take the time to open up and really experience any art form, or anything that a human makes, you’ll be able to feel the integrity in it. Or not. Food. Graphic design. The healing touch of a massage therapist. The foam design on a latte. Pretty much anything. Everything.

The human vibe is embedded into all of this stuff on some level. And on some level people pick up on it.

Your intention matters. It affects everything you come in contact with. Everything you do. Everything you make. Every song. Every word. Every person. Every dream.

Mean it like Aretha.



Pop Quiz (all answers are correct)

• What movie, book or music changed the way you understood the world? In what ways?

• In what ways do you Mean it Like Aretha?



About the Author:

Jeff Leisawitz burns with a mission—to inspire writers, artists, musicians and random creative types to amp up their creativity, heal their hearts and shine in the world. Author. Award winning musician/ producer. Internationally distributed filmmaker. College prof. Photographer. Speaker. Consultant. Not F*ing Around—The No Bullsh*t Guide for Getting Your Creative Dreams Off the Ground is Jeff’s first book.


  1. Cynthia January 26, 2016 at 5:52 pm - Reply

    This is great stuff & I couldn’t agree more! I always say in life & art, motive & intention mean everything. Thanks for writing!

  2. Nichole January 26, 2016 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    Damn, great article. Human beings are just beautiful aren’t they. Art is an expression of the pain and beauty that makes us real, and hearing Aretha belt out R.E.S.P.E.C.T will shake to to the core, and connect you those human feelings we all have, but may not have words for. It’s in her pauses between breaths even. I aspire to mean it like Aretha. Loved this post!

Leave A Comment