Aretha Franklin will always and forever be the Queen of Soul. It hasn’t even been a year since we lost the icon and today she would have been 77 years old. We are still mourning the loss of a national treasure but thankfully the world will always have the music.
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. Her unmatched singing voice helped her create timeless hits like “Respect” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” on her way to being rightfully crowned as the Queen of Soul.
Franklin experienced worldwide singing success for the better part of 60 years, releasing dozens of studio albums and ultimately becoming the first woman to ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. In addition, she put on a number of signature performances over the years, including most notably at the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968 and in 2009 at the inauguration of President Barack Obama, who became the first African-American commander-in-chief.
Franklin also had a commitment to justice and equality that was instilled in her at a young age, the Rev. Jesse Jackson recalled to Vogue while celebrating her 74th birthday party in 2016.
“She always had a great sense of social justice,” Jackson said at the time. “When Dr. King took a position against the Vietnam War, and he was being attacked by the Democrats and the Republicans and many of the black churches, Aretha did a 10-city tour with him and Harry Belafonte in ’67 for free. We got on the stage in Houston—I was thinking about this when I was taking a shower earlier—and Dr. King was about to present her with some flowers, and someone put tear gas in the fans. It was that crazy. She stood with Dr. King when it mattered the most.”
Aretha Louise Franklin was born on March 25, 1942, in Memphis to a father who was a minister and gospel singer and a mother who was also a gospel singer. After moving to Detroit and singing in a church there with her father following her parents’ split, she went on to sign a record contract with Columbia Records in 1960 and release her debut album, “The Great Aretha Franklin,” when she was just 18.
While she was based out of Detroit, she perfected a sound that was much different from that of the soul music of the city’s Motown Records, which boasted a roster of singers that at one time included Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, The Isley Brothers, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Stevie Wonders and others.
See the timeline below of her incredible below.
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.
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 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 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.
On January 20, 2009, Aretha performs “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” at the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
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.