Today is the 72nd birthday of living legend/national treasure/Diva Star Grand Supreme Aretha Franklin. She celebrated this weekend at a star-studded party at New York's Ritz Carlton alongside the trusted companion that is her purse.

Franklin, owner of the greatest voice of all time, civil rights activist, and perhaps the person most responsible for bridging the gap from gospel to pop with her standard-setting vocal style, posed with her purse...

[Photo via AP]

...had cake with her purse...

[Photo via AP]

...and took a group photo with label boss Clive Davis and her purse.

[Photo via AP]

Aretha Franklin, generally, is carrying her purse when you see her. This occurs both offstage...

...and on.

Aretha Franklin's purse is something of a thing, even. As multiple reviews have pointed out, her concerts often begin with a well dressed man carrying her purse out and placing it onstage before she comes out.

From a write-up of her 2007 show at San Antonio's Majestic Theater:

A few minutes before downbeat, as ushers were still leading hundreds of late arrivals to their seat, as the people in the front rows were up and milling about greeting each other and as bartenders were filling dozens of drink orders, a tall, nattily dressed man carrying a beige and brown purse walked onstage, put the purse under the piano and walked off.

From a review of her 2011 show at the Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake, MN:

As her massive (and partially Minnesotan) backing band assembled themselves on stage, a well-dressed man who was presumably the Queen of Soul's handler scurried out on stage to place a tiger-striped handbag beneath the lip of the concert grand piano at the center of the stage, a sign that Ms. Franklin herself would soon appear.

So, what's up with the purse? Franklin has answered this question. In 2008, she told the Washington Post:

It's like Peanuts, right? My security blanket. No, I just choose to keep it with me. Ladies always keep up with their purses!

Well, not quite. In any given group, if anyone has a purse, it's going to be Aretha Franklin.

Maybe the implication is that other heifers (to use Patti LaBelle's word) aren't ladies and thus aren't keeping up with their purses. Maybe everyone else has hired someone else to handle their purses. Regardless, Aretha Franklin shows up at many a red carpet and public appearance lugging a giant bag with her. It is her signature. It is her calling card. It is part of what makes her her. It is her way of not giving a fuck and doing Aretha. She has earned the right to carry whatever goddamn thing she wants. Or not, even:

And so, on this special day, we speak your names, Aretha Franklin and Aretha Franklin's purse. Please enjoy the following pictures of Aretha Franklin and her purse.

[Photo via AP]

[Photo via AP]

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(In case you're wondering what's going on with the hat as it bleeds into the background... is a better shot, as Franklin considers another option.)

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(That isn't a purse, but it is big enough to be one.)

Look, the fact of the matter is that if Aretha Franklin can have someone carry her umbrella...

...she can have someone carrying her purse, and she just isn't. The purse is part of her.

Except for that one time.

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The man holding her purse above is her longtime friend, Willie Wilkerson, to whom Franklin was engaged in 2012. A few weeks later, she called off the engagement.

Happy birthday, Aretha Franklin and Aretha Franklin's purse!

[All images via Getty unless noted otherwise directly below]