Aretha Franklin

  • The Queen of Soul, R&B, Gospel and jazz singer born in Memphis Tennessee in 1942. She lived in Detroit when she was growing up. Died in August 2018, of pancreatic cancer.
  • Her father was a well known Baptist preacher. When Aretha was 10, she started singing solos at her father’s church. At 14, she began to tour with her father as he traveled to other churches to preach. Seeing her talent, he helped her get signed with a record label in 1956, and her first album, Songs of Faith, was released that year, with Aretha playing piano and singing. Two singles were released – Never Grow Old and Precious Lord, Take My Hand. 
  • At 18, she told her father that she wanted to sing popular music, and he agreed. She made a demo tape, and Columbia Records signed her in 1960. Her first single with Columbia was released in September – Today I Sing the Blues, which reached #10 on the R&B chart. Her first album was released in January 1961 – Aretha: With the Ray Bryant Combo. It contained her first single to chart on the Billboard 100 – Won’t Be Long.
  • In 1962, 2 more albums were released – The Electrifying Aretha Franklin and The Tender, The Moving, The Swinging Aretha Franklin. She was performing constantly, which provided a substantial income to her. She released 9 albums with Columbia between 1961 and 1967. She had 19 singles chart in the Billboard charts, but she had yet to score a major hit.
  • That changed when she signed with Atlantic Records in late 1966. Her first album with Atlantic was I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You. The album hit #2 on the Billboard Hot 200 album chart, and #1 on the R&B chart. Her second single from the album became her smash hit – her signature song, Respect. The song earned her 2 Grammy awards, and it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1987. In 2002, the song was added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry. Rolling Stone puts the song at #5 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
  • Other top 5 songs by Franklin between 1967 and 1973 were Baby I Love You, Chain of Fools, (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone, Spanish Harlem, Day Dreaming and Until You Come Back (That’s What I’m Gonna Do). Additionally, another of her signature songs, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, from her album Lady Soul, was released in 1967 – it peaked at #8 on the Hot 100 chart, and at #2 on the R&B chart.
  • Her move to Arista Records led to more success in the 80s. Ten albums were released between 1980 and 2003 – 4 landed in the top 5 R&B album charts, with Who’s Zoomin’ Who? selling over 1 million records. Her biggest hits during this time were Freeway of Love, peaking at #3, and her collaboration with George Michael, I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me), which hit #1 in 1987.
  • In total, Franklin has released 42 studio albums, 6 live albums, and 131 singles. Her 112 songs that charted on Billboard charts are the most of any female singer ever. She has won 18 Grammy awards plus 3 Grammy special awards – the Legend Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award, and the MusiCares Person of the Year. She was inducted in 1987 into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the first woman to receive the honor. Rolling Stone places her at #9 in their Greatest Artist of All Time list, and at #1 on their Greatest Singers of All Time list. She was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1994, and was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 2005. She has been awarded honorary degrees from 9 different universities, including Yale, Harvard and Princeton.
  • Her final album was released in November 2017 – A Brand New Me: Aretha Franklin With the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. 
  • Aretha Franklin is iconic in the world of music, certainly in the discussion of the greatest artists of all time. In 2015, she gave a memorable performance of the song written by Carole King, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, at the Kennedy Center Honors awards ceremony – that year, King was a recipient of the award. Here’s Franklin’s stunning performance that evening. Watch Carole King freak out during this performance by Aretha – it brought tears to my eyes when I watched it in 2015, and it does today.

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