Sadly, Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, has passed away, leaving the world to begin mourning the loss of a national treasure. With a career that began in the late 1950s, she earned 18 Grammy Awards, 112 charted singles on the Billboard Hot 100 and over 75 million albums sold. Aretha broke down barriers and defined soul music for generations.
Take a look at some of the major milestones she achieved during her dynamic career.
Aretha Louise Franklin is born March 25, 1942. Her father was a preacher Clarence LaVaughn “C. L.” Franklin and her mother Barbara Franklin, who passed away when Aretha was 10, was a vocalist and piano player. Aretha developed her musical skills in the church and sang her first solo when she was 12-years-old at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit.
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At 14 years old, Aretha Franklin releases her first album Songs of Faith on JVB/Battle Records. The nine-track album was recorded live at New Bethel Baptist Church, the church of her father Reverend C. L. Franklin, in Detroit, Michigan. The album was not a hit, but would mark the beginning of her incredible career.
Aretha scores her first top ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” and hits number one with “Respect,” which was originally recorded by Otis Redding. Both songs are from the I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You album. Aretha officially became a superstar.
Aretha released two studio albums in 1968, Lady Soul and Aretha Now, both top five hits on the Billboard album chart. This is also the year she won her first Grammy. But tragedy struck the nation when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Watch the powerful clip above from April 9, 1968.
Aretha releases the gospel album “Amazing Grace.” The album won a Grammy and became the highest selling live gospel music album of all time.
Aretha performs “God Bless America” at the inauguration gala of President Jimmy Carter, her first of four inaugurations at which she would perform.
In 1979, Aretha Franklin’s father C.L. Franklin was shot by burglars. He remained in a coma until his death in 1984. See the photo above from 1971 with her father and her sister Carolyn.
Aretha Franklin becomes the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She was not in attendance, but Clive Davis attended and read her speech (see above). She also lands her second number one on the Billboard Hot 100 with George Michael for the song “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me).” The song won her a Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo.
On January 20, 1993, Aretha performs “I Dreamed a Dream” at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton.
At 52, Aretha becomes the youngest recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor. See a brief clip above.
At the last minute, Aretha replaced Luciano Pavarotti, who canceled at the last minute due to illness, at the Grammys for a performance of the opera song “Nessun dorma.” She also released her final top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with the Lauryn Hill-produced “A Rose Is Still a Rose”.
Aretha is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush on November 9, 2005.
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On January 20, 2009, Aretha performs “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” at the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
Aretha releases the album Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics, which includes a cover of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” The songs charts at number 47 on the Billboard R&B singles chart, making her the first female artist to score 100 hits on the chart.
Aretha announces her retirement, saying, “I am retiring this year. I will be recording, but this will be my last year in concert.” She performs for the last time in June of 2017 in Detroit, at the inaugural Detroit Music Weekend. She sang on Aretha Franklin Way and asked the crowd to keep her in their prayers. Watch above.
August 2018, the iconic Aretha Franklin passes away after struggling with cancer. Aretha’s legacy is unmatched and will live forever. Long live the Queen of Soul.
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