The Queen of Soul
Nicknamed "The Queen of Soul" and "Lady Soul," Aretha Franklin, who is widely praised for her passionate, soulful vocal style and range, has released 40 albums and had a total of twenty #1 R&B singles. She has won 20 Grammy Awards, thanks to such tracks as "Respect" (1967), "Chain Of Fools" (1967), "Share Your Love With Me" (1969), "Don't Play That Song (You Lied)" (1970), "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (1971), "Master Of Eyes (The Deepness Of Your Eyes)" (1973), "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing" (1974), "Freeway Of Love" (1985), "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) -- With George Michael (1987), and "Wonderful" (2003), to name a few. She also won a Living Legend Grammy and the Lifetime Achievement Grammy.
With a career spanning for nearly half a century, Aretha, who is not only renowned for her soul recordings but also for her jazz, rock, blues, pop, gospel, and even opera, became the first woman to be admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. She was awarded the American National Medal of the Arts by the National Endowment of the Arts in Washington D.C. in 1999 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush on November 9, 2005. Her voice was designated a Natural Resource by the State of Michigan and she was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 2001.
On a more personal note, the Memphis-born and Detroit-raised singer has been divorced twice, once from former manager and co-writer Ted White and actor Glynn Turman. Aretha is the proud mother of four sons.
“I'm the lady next door when I'm not on stage.” Aretha Franklin
Childhood and Family:
In Memphis, Tennessee, Aretha Louise Franklin was born on March 25, 1942, to Reverend Clarence LaVaughn Franklin (born on January 22, 1915; died on July 27, 1984 from gunshot wounds sustained during a burglary), a highly influential African-American Baptist preacher and civil rights activist, and Barbara Siggers Franklin (born on June 29, 1917; died in 1952 of heart failure), a pianist and gifted singer.
Aretha's parents separated when she was six and Aretha moved with her family to places like Buffalo, New York, before eventually settling in Detroit, Michigan, where her father assumed the pulpit of the New Bethel Baptist Church and gained national fame as a preacher.
From 1962 to 1969, Aretha was married to her manager and co-writer Ted White. She married actor Glynn Turman (born on January 31, 1946) on April 11, 1978, but the marriage ended in late 1982 when Aretha and her family returned permanently to Detroit. She and Turman officially divorced in early 1984.
“Trying to grow up is hurting, you know. You make mistakes. You try to learn from them, and when you don't, it hurts even more.” Aretha Franklin
Aretha gave birth to her first child, Clarence Franklin Jr., at age 14, and her second child, Edward ("Eddie") Franklin, at age 16. They were raised by Aretha's grandmother so that Aretha could pursue her career. She also has sons with her first husband.
Aretha is an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She was awarded an honorary Doctor of Musicology degree from the University of Detroit in May 1987, an honorary Doctor of Music degree by the Berklee College of Music on May 13, 2006, and a Doctor of Music degree from the University of Pennsylvania on May 14, 2007.
Aretha suffers from a fear of flying that has affected her schedules. She declined attending her Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame induction and was sued for breach of contract in 1984 when she was unable to star in the Broadway musical “Sing, Mahalia, Sing,” both mainly because of her fear of flying.
The Queen of Soul frequently invites fellow soul singer Chaka Khan, whom reportedly is one of her favorites, to sing at her birthday parties.
“My faith always has been and always will be important to me.” Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin began singing in the church choir as a small child. When her family moved to Detroit, Aretha and her sisters got to know gospel singers such as Mahalia Jackson and Clara Ward, both of whom spent a lot of time in Aretha's home. They also became acquainted with future R&B stars like Smokey Robinson and Sam Cooke.
Adept at the piano as well as having a gifted voice, Aretha became a child prodigy. She become a featured soloist during church sermons at the age of 12 and made her first recording as a gospel artist by the time she hit 14. “The Gospel Soul of Aretha Franklin” was released in 1956 under Checker Records, where her father also recorded his sermons and gospel vocal recordings.
After being derailed with teenage pregnancies in 1955 and 1957, the 18-year-old moved to New York City in 1960 and was signed to Columbia Records. With them, she released several singles and albums that reflected a jazz influence. Between 1960 and 1966, Aretha released her version of "Rock-A-Bye Your Baby (With A Dixie Melody)," which reached #37 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart in 1961, and the Top 10 R&B hits "Today I Sing The Blues," "Won't Be Long," and "Operation Heartbreak."
Aretha decided to move to Atlantic Records in late 1966. The following year, she released her first Atlantic single, "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)," a blend of gospel, blues, pop, and R&B. Produced by Jerry Wexler, the single became Aretha's first big hit, topping at #1 on the Rhythm and Blues charts for an incredible nine weeks and rising to #9 on the Pop charts.
Meanwhile, the album of the same name peaked at #1 on the Black Albums chart and #2 on the Pop Albums chart. It is widely regarded as one of the best of the rock era and was ranked at #1 on Rolling Stone's "Women in Rock: 50 Essential Albums" 2002 list, as well as #83 on Rolling Stone Magazine's list of "The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time" in 2003.
The next single, "Respect," Aretha's version of Otis Redding's 1965 R&B hit, proved to be her signature song. The song that was a landmark for the feminist movement stayed at #1 on both the Black Singles Chart (for 8 weeks) and Pop Singles Chart (for 2 weeks) and earned her two Grammy Awards in 1968.
Often considered one of the best songs of the Rock & Roll era, "Respect" is ranked at #5 on Rolling Stone's list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” and was also included in the list of Songs of the Century, by the Recording Industry of America and the National Endowment for the Arts. The song became an anthem for civil rights and social progress and Aretha received an honorary award from Martin Luther King, Jr. In 2002, the Library of Congress added Aretha's version of "Respect" to the National Recording Registry.
After rounding out the '60s with five more R&B number ones, "Baby I Love You" (1967), "Chain Of Fools" (1967), "(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone" "Think" (A-Side) (1968) and "Share Your Love With Me" (1969), Aretha cemented her status as the first “Lady of Soul.”
She continued to spawn hits through the early '70s with more number ones, including "Call Me" (1970), "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (1971), "Spanish Harlem" (1971), "Angel" (1973), "Until You Come Back to Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)" (1973), "I'm in Love" (1974), "Something He Can Feel" (1976), and "Break It To Me Gently" (1977).
Aretha returned to her gospel roots with the release of the R&B/Gospel album “Amazing Grace” in 1972. The double live set, which was recorded with James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir, amazingly made the Pop Top 10 and sold over two million U.S. copies.
After recording the 1979 album “La Diva,” Aretha made a cameo appearance in John Landis' musical comedy, “The Blues Brothers” (1980), in which she sang her hit 1968 feminist anthem "Think" as Mrs. Matt Murphy, the possessive wife of the lead guitarist of the Blues Brothers Band. She also appeared on the film's soundtrack. She would later reprise her character in its sequel, "Blues Brothers 2000" (1998).
During this time, Aretha signed with Arista Records and returned to the top of the charts in 1982 with "Jump To It," her first Top 40 Pop hit since 1976. She followed it up with another No. 1 single, "Get It Right" (1983), written and produced by Luther Vandross and Marcus Miller. In 1985, she released “Who's Zoomin' Who,” which spun off the R&B chart topper "Freeway of Love" (#3 Billboard Hot 100 chart and #1 Hot R&B Singles chart for five weeks), which won her a Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
She also released the album “Aretha” (1986), which yielded her first #1 Pop single in two decades with "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" (1987), a duet with George Michael which topped the charts in the U.S. and the U.K. and won her a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal By a Duo Or Group. Meanwhile she collaborated with Annie Lennox on the Eurythmics hit, "Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves." That same year, she sealed her status as a legend when she became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“I've always felt rock and roll was very, very wholesome music.” Aretha Franklin
Aretha soon revisited her Gospel roots and released "One Lord One Faith One Baptism" (1987), which earned her Grammy Award's Best Soul Female Gospel Performance (Female) in 1988. After mourning the death of her manager, brother, and sister, Aretha returned to the studio and recorded "Through the Storm" (1989).
In the early '90s, Aretha performed at President Clinton's 1992 inauguration. In 1994, she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Grammy, and in 1995, she contributed to the “Waiting to Exhale” soundtrack. She also released the all new material album “A Rose Is Still a Rose” (1998), which was deemed a successful attempt to bring her into 1990s urban adult contemporary R&B. The title track, which was written and produced by Lauryn Hill of The Fugees, became her 43rd pop top 40, a record for a female artist that was surpassed only by Madonna in 2002.
Aretha stepped in for Luciano Pavarotti to sing "Nessun Dorma" at the 1998 Grammy Awards when the legendary Italian tenor, who was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award that night, was too sick to attend. In 1999, she was awarded The National Medal of Arts by President Clinton and the American National Medal of the Arts by the National Endowment of the Arts in Washington D.C. She was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 2001 and was honored on VH1's “Diva's Live” in 2001. The following year, she was invited to sing at the Queen of England's Golden Jubilee celebrations.
After releasing "So Damn Happy" (2003), which includes the Grammy-winning track "Wonderful," Aretha left Arista Records after twenty-three years and started her own label, Aretha Records. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked her #9 on their list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time.” In 2005, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush and became the second woman (Madonna being the first, a founding member) to be inducted into the U.K. Music Hall of Fame.
In November 2007, Aretha released "Jewels in the Crown: All-Star Duets with the Queen," a compilation album of her classic duets with Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross, Richard Marx, John Legend, Annie Lennox, Mary J. Blige, Frank Sinatra, George Michael, George Benson, Fantasia, and Gloria Estefan. The lead single "Put You Up On Game," a duet with Fantasia, was released as a single on U.S. Urban AC radio on October 1, 2007, and became the number one most added song on Urban AC radio the following week. As for the album itself, "Jewels in the Crown: All-Star Duets with the Queen" debuted at #54 on the U.S. Top 200 and at #7 on the U.S. R&B Album Chart.
“Being a singer is a natural gift. It means I'm using to the highest degree possible the gift that God gave me to use. I'm happy with that.” Aretha Franklin
Grammy: Best Gospel-Soul Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group-Gospel, "Never Gonna Break My Faith," 2008 (with Mary J. Blige)
Grammy: Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance, “A House Is Not A Home,” 2006
Grammy: Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance, “Wonderful,” 2004
Grammy: Lifetime Achievement Award, 1994
Grammy: Legend Award, 1991
Grammy: Best Soul Female Gospel Performance, “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism,” 1988
Grammy: Best R&B Vocal By Duo Or Group, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” -- With George Michael, 1988
Grammy: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, “Aretha,” 1988
Grammy: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, “Freeway Of Love,” 1986
Grammy: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, "Hold On...I'm Comin'," 1982
Grammy: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, “Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing,” 1975
Grammy: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, “Master Of Eyes (The Deepness Of Your Eyes),” 1974
Grammy: Best Soul Gospel Performance, “Amazing Grace,” 1973
Grammy: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, “Young, Gifted and Black,” 1973
Grammy: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” 1972
Grammy: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, “Don't Play That Song (You Lied),” 1971
Grammy: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, “Share Your Love With Me,” 1970
Grammy: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, “Chain Of Fools,” 1969
Grammy: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, “Respect,” 1968
Grammy: Best Rhythm And Blues Recording, “Respect,” 1968