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Aretha at the inauguration: The future had been written

January 20, 2009 | 12:21 pm

When Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin took the stage today to sing at the inauguration of Barack Obama, the scene may have felt slightly familiar to students of pop music. While the words spoken by George Clinton in the 1975 funk song "Chocolate City" didn't exactly come to fruition, many of the principals name-checked in the tune were present at today's ceremony, in which Obama took the oath of office as the nation's 44th president.

Thirty-four years ago, Parliament's "Chocolate City" outlined a vision for what our nation's capital might look like after the election of our first black chief executive. Parliament had Muhammad Ali as the one in office. Today, Ali watched the proceedings from the VIP section (pictured above).

Aretha was present in the cut as well, but as first lady, rather than performer. As for the other celebs in the song, Richard Pryor and James Brown have passed on, but Stevie Wonder, who Parliament envisioned as secretary of fine arts, has been an active participant in inaugural activities, performing Sunday as part of the "We Are One" concert.

So, the details aren't exactly the same, but what was once a playfully prideful refrain in a song has turned out to be a rather prescient pop-cultural moment.

-- Todd Martens

Photos: Aretha Franklin and Muhammad Ali. Credit for both: EPA