Aretha Franklin (born March 25, 1942) is an iconic
American gospel, soul and R&B singer born in Memphis, Tennessee, but raised
in Detroit, Michigan. On January 3, 1987 she became the first woman
to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Many have called
her "The Queen Of Soul" and "Lady Soul". She
is renowned for her soul and R&B recordings but is also adept
at jazz, rock, blues, pop, hip-hop, gospel, and even opera.
is generally regarded as being one of the best vocalists ever
by such industry publications/media outlets as Rolling Stone and
due to her phenomenal ability to inject whatever she may be
singing about with gut wrenching soul (hence the title) and sheer conviction.
She has won 16 competitive Grammys (including an unprecedented
12 for Best female R&B vocal performance) and the state
of Michigan has declared her voice to be a natural wonder.
Unknown by most people, Franklin surprisingly has only had 2 songs
hit the #1 position on the Billboard Hot 100, "Respect" in
the 1960's, and her 1980's duet with George Michael, "I Knew You
Were Waiting For Me". However, many of her singles have hit Top
20, Top 10, and Top 5 positions.
As a child, Franklin and her sisters, Carolyn and Erma, sang
at her father's Detroit-area church and made her first recordings at
14. She signed with Columbia Records after being discovered by legendary
A&R man John Hammond. In the early 1960s, Franklin had a few popular
songs, most notably "Rock-a-bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody." Though
Columbia really wanted her as a jazz singer, the results never gave
full rein to Franklin's talents. Her greatest and most innovative work
was yet to come.
After moving to Atlantic Records in 1967, Franklin teamed up with
producers Jerry Wexler and Arif Mardin, resulting in some of the most
influential R&B recordings of the 1960s, including "I Never
Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)", a much more soulful and impassioned
song than most of her earlier work. By the late 1960s, Franklin had
earned the nickname "The Queen of Soul", having become an
internationally famous artist and a symbol of pride for the Black community.
Franklin said herself of this period, "When I went to Atlantic,
they just sat me down at the piano and the hits started coming."
She released numerous Top Ten hits in the late 1960s and early 1970s,
dabbling in gospel music, blues music, pop music, psychedelic music
and rock and roll, including notable covers of songs by The Beatles
("Eleanor Rigby"), The Band ("The Weight"), Simon & Garfunkel
("Bridge Over Troubled Water"), Sam Cooke and The Drifters.
Live at Fillmore West and Amazing Grace were two of her most influential
full-length releases, the latter a double LP of live gospel music recorded
in a Los Angeles Baptist church. Surprisingly she never made it to
number one in the UK pop charts — the best result being a number
four with her version of Burt Bacharach's "I Say a Little Prayer" in
Among her most successful hit singles from this era were "Chain
of Fools", "You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman)", "Think", "Baby
I Love You", "The House That Jack Built", and "Respect",
a cover of an Otis Redding single which became her signature song.
After the R&B category was added to the Grammy Awards in 1968,
she was virtually unchallenged, winning eight successive awards for
Best Female R&B Vocal Performance; she later added three more Grammies
in this category in the 1980s.
In the early 1970s, her music mellowed slightly, though losing nothing
of its power, and she continued the hugely successful relationship
with Wexler and Mardin while beginning to take a greater role in producing
her work. A partnership with Quincy Jones led to a disappointing album
in 1973 Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky). But it still produced
a standout track "Angel", written by her sister Carolyn which
became a soul classic.
She returned to working with Wexler, but their last collaboration,
the Atlantic LP You was released in 1975.
Franklin released several LPs after You including Sparkle in 1976
which yielded a #1 R&B single, "(Giving Him )Something He
Can Feel" , Sweet Passion, Almighty Fire (also produced by Curtis
Mayfield) and La Diva, her last Atlantic LP.
Wexler had now left Atlantic and the partnership was over. Despite
working with artists of the stature of Curtis Mayfield, popularity
and critical success waned during the mid to late 1970s and the 1980s,
though she scored several hits, often with partners (such as Luther
Vandross). Her most notable 1980s hit was the dance song "Freeway
of Love", which charted in 1985. Most critics dismiss her post-Atlantic
material as far inferior to the legendary recordings of the mid to
She married Ted White in 1962 and he became her manager during her
years with Columbia Records. The marriage ended in 1969 and she has
always refused to answer questions about it. A Time Magazine cover
story in 1968 led to a lawsuit from Ted White over allegations that
he had roughed her up in public. The affair made her guard her private
life even more jealously and she gave no interviews for several years
after that. She lives today in Detroit.
1956 The Gospel Soul of Aretha Franklin
1962 The Electrifying Aretha Franklin
1962 The Tender, The Moving, The Swinging Aretha Franklin
1963 Laughing on the Outside
1964 Unforgettable: A Tribute to Dinah Washington
1964 Songs of Faith
1965 Yeah!: Aretha Franklin in Person
1965 Once in a Lifetime
1967 I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)
1967 Aretha Arrives
1967 Take It Like You Give It
1967 Lee Cross
1968 Lady Soul
1968 Aretha Now
1968 Aretha in Paris
1969 Aretha Franklin: Live!
1969 I Say a Little Prayer
1969 Soul '69
1970 This Girl's In Love with You
1970 Don't Play That Song
1970 Sweet Bitter Love
1970 Spirit in the Dark
1971 Aretha Live at the Fillmore West
1971 Young, Gifted and Black
1972 Amazing Grace
1973 Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky)
1974 With Everything I Feel in Me
1974 Let Me in Your Life
1977 Sweet Passion
1977 Most Beautiful Songs
1978 Almighty Fire
1979 La Diva
1980 Aretha Sings the Blues
1981 Love All the Hurt Away
1982 Jump to It
1983 Get It Right
1984 Never Grow Old
1985 First Lady of Soul
1985 Who's Zoomin' Who?
1986 Soul Survivor
1987 One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism
1989 Through the Storm
1991 What You See Is What You Sweat
1998 A Rose Is Still a Rose
2003 So Damn Happy
The Blues Brothers (1980)
Blues Brothers 2000 (1998)
Immaculate Funk (2000) (documentary)
Tom Dowd & the Language of Music (2003) (documentary)
Singing in the Shadow: The Children of Rock Royalty (2003) (documentary)