On Thursday (Aug. 18), the world lost the revered “Queen Of Soul,” Aretha Franklin, leaving behind a body of work that will be studied, admired, and admired for the rest of time. And with a career that spanned well over five decades, fans and new listeners alike have an opportunity to learn more about Franklin’s career and contribution to music.
Aretha Louise Franklin was born March 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tenn. She was a teen gospel prodigy, but decided to venture into the secular world of pop music as her renowned preacher father, C. L. Franklin, served as her manager. In 1961, she signed with Columbia Records, finding early success with “Operation Heartbreak,” “Rock A Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody,” and her first charted hit, “Won’t Be Long.”
Franklin left Columbia in the late ’60’s, signing with Atlantic Records. Hits like “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” and “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)” were born. “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Ain’t No Way,” and “Chain Of Fools” legitimized Franklin as a bona fide chart-topping star.
After a career lull in the late 70’s, in 1980, Franklin joined Clive Davis’ Arista Records, rising on the charts anew with songs like “Jump To It” and “Freeway Of Love” throughout the mid-eighties. 20 years ago, she released the album “A Rose Is Still A Rose,” working alongside Lauryn Hill for the album’s title track and hit single. She released her last studio album “A Brand New Me” last year which merged older recordings with backing music from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Contrary to the assumption of many because she remained in her hometown of Detroit for many years, Franklin was never signed to the city’s legendary soul and R&B label, Motown Records. Across 42 studio albums, six live albums, 45 compilation albums, and 131 singles, Franklin has 11 gold albums, three platinum albums, and one double platinum album. She won 18 Grammys. Her civil rights activism was well-known – she sang at both Martin Luther King’s and Rosa Parks’ funerals and at Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration, as well as for Pope Francis during his papal visit to Philadelphia in 2015.
She is the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and she is also a member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, the NAACP Hall of Fame, and the United Kingdom Hall of Fame. In 1979, she was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, among her many other honors. She is survived by family and her four sons, Ted White, Jr., Kecalf Cunningham, Clarence Franklin and Edward Franklin.
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