Gone But Not Forgotten: Aretha Franklin
March 25, 1942 - August 16, 2018
Aretha Franklin, known to us as the Queen of Soul, was the son of a minister. She started out her musical life as a gospel singer at her father's church, New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. After her parents split, her mother died when Aretha was only 10. Brought up by her grandmother as well as Mahalia Jackson, Aretha learned how to play piano at a young age. Her father's career as a minister was booming and many famous gospel singers and celebrities (including Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke) visited the family home, which probably had a significant impact on young Aretha. Franklin went on tour with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at age 16 and later sang at his funeral.
Aretha Franklin left the gospel world for pop music at Columbia Records at the age of 18. At the age of 25, she signed to Atlantic Records, where she recorded "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You," her cover of Otis Redding's "Respect," "Baby I Love You," and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," to critical acclaim and commercial success.
Franklin's next albums, Lady Soul, Young, Gifted and Black, and Amazing Grace reached even higher peaks of success. When her father was shot, and she had been experiencing issues with her record label, Franklin left Atlantic and joined Arista Records. Her style and sound adapted with the times and the electro-influenced 1980s hits "Jump to It" (co-written by Luther Vandross who also contributed backup vocals, along with Cissy Houston) "Who's Zoomin' Who," and "Freeway of Love" plus a duet with Eurthymics' Annie Lennox, "Sisters Are Doin' it For Themselves." The album Who's Zoomin' Who, released in 1985, was Franklin's first platinum selling record. "Freeway of Love" was #1 for 5 weeks straight and earned Aretha a Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
Aretha Franklin's voice was powerful and versatile. She also sang opera aria "Nessun dorma" at the 1998 Grammy Awards. Over the years she had 20 #1 R&B singles, 17 Billboard Top 10 Hits, has received 18 Grammy Awards, 3 Grammy Special Awards, 3 American Music Awards, and has sold over 75 million records worldwide. Franklin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005, and the GMA Gospel Hall of Fame in 2012. Franklin recorded over 40 studio albums, 6 live albums, and appears on countless duets and compilations.
Franklin's music has appeared in many movies and television soundtracks, and she herself has made cameos in several movies, plus had a great scene in the Blues Brothers movies. Aretha Franklin has performed for many presidents, including former presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as Queen Elizabeth.
Franklin was a pioneer for female artists, and was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Her songs spoke about respect, independence and equal treatment for women. Aretha Franklin had four sons (the first at age 12 and the second at age 14!) of her own, plus several stepchildren. She died of advanced pancreatic cancer at age 76.