Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Aretha Franklin

The “Queen Of Soul,” Aretha Franklin has been a household name all over the world since the mid-1960s. Her powerful voice has long made her a highly influential musical icon. She has won 20 Grammy awards and has had 17 top 10 singles on the Billboard R&B singles chart, including her signature song, “Respect.” Born in Memphis in 1942, Aretha’s father was the Rev. C.L. Franklin. After time spent living in Buffalo, she grew up in Detroit. While Rev. Franklin became famous as the preacher at the New Bethel Baptist Church, his daughter was considered a gospel music prodigy who signed with Checker Records when she was 14. Originally inspired by Mahalia Jackson, Franklin was also influenced by Dinah Washington and Sam Cooke. By 1960, when she signed with Columbia, Aretha had switched from gospel to pop. The label unfortunately did not seem to know what to do with her and, although she sounded powerful singing jazz, standards and ballads, overall Aretha came across as a bit restrained. That all changed when she signed with Atlantic. Cutting loose in R&B/soul settings, she became the Aretha Franklin of legend, starting with “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” and continuing with “Respect,” “Chain of Fools,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Think” and many other hits. Despite the passing of four decades and the rise and fall of many musical styles, Aretha Franklin’s fame and power have not declined. Among the highlights of the years since “Respect” was her appearance in The Blues Brothers movie, the 1982 album Jump To It, 1985’s Who’s Zoomin’ Who, the 1986 single with George Michael, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” and 1998’s A Rose Is Still a Rose. A living legend, despite her impressive recordings, Aretha Franklin has to be seen live to be fully appreciated.