Aretha Franklin (March 25, 1942 – August 16, 2018) was one of the finest singers in American history.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee to a father who was a preacher and a mother who was a pianist-singer, she moved with her family to Buffalo, New York when she was two and permanently to Detroit at the age of five.
Franklin learned to play piano by ear and she began singing solos at her father’s church when she was ten.
By the time she was 14, she had developed into such a powerful singer that her father (who had become famous for his passionate sermons) brought her on the road to perform at different churches and functions.
At 16, Franklin made her recording debut (the album Songs Of Faith), toured with the Soul Stirrers, and became a friend and occasional singer for Martin Luther King.
Having decided to explore secular music, at 18 she moved to New York and was discovered by John Hammond of Columbia Records who signed her to the label and saw her as a jazz/blues singer in the vein of Dinah Washington.
During 1961-66, Franklin had some success at Columbia with her hits including “Won’t Be Long,” “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody,” “Runnin’ Out Of Fools,” “One Step Ahead,” “Cry Like A Baby,” and “You Made Me Love You.”
However the label clearly did not know what to do with her, having her alternate between jazz, blues, pop and r&b.
The turning point of Aretha Franklin’s career was in 1967 when, having signed to Atlantic Records, she recorded “I Never Loved A Man,” “Respect,” and “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman.”
From that point on, Franklin was the Queen of Soul, infusing r&b and soul music with the emotions of gospel music, and showing the music world that no one had a more powerful and soulful voice.
An international celebrity for the next 50 years, Franklin was on the cover of Time Magazine in 1968, had 20 #1 R&B hits during 1967-85, acted in a brief but memorable role in The Blues Brothers, and became the first female to have 100 songs on Billboard’s r&b chart when she recorded “Rolling In The Deep” in 2014; she made her final album in 2017
Aretha Franklin passed away on August 16, 2018 at the age of 76 from pancreatic cancer.
Here is the Queen of Soul in 1970, putting everything into her version of “I Say A Little Prayer.”
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