Singer. She received her international acclaimed as the “Queen of Soul” with her 18 Grammy award-winning hits sung with a bluesy, soulful voice that few could match in power and gusto. Her genre ranged from gospel to jazz, rhythm and blues to pop. In 1987 she was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Her signature song and greatest hit, “Respect,” reigned during a turbulent era of racial tensions and became an anthem for women's rights movements. According to MTV, the recording industry, and the National Endowment for the Arts, “Respect” ranks in the top five songs of the Twentieth Century. Wrote and originally released by Otis Redding in 1965, she released it in 1967 as her first Grammy-winning song. Since this song is “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important and reflect life in the United States, “Respect” is listed on the registry as provided by the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000. Another one of her 1967 hits was written by Carol King, “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman,” which reached #8 on the Billboard Top 100 Pop Hits. At the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors, she performed it to honor award-recipient Carol King. Being one of five children, Aretha Louise Franklin was the daughter of Rev. C.L. Franklin, a charismatic preacher at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. He was a confidant of Martin Luther King, Jr. At the age of 14 years old, she made her first album, “Spirituals” in 1956 as a gospel artist; this was re-released in 1962. Although Motown Records was interested in signing her, she went with the Columbia label for the first half of the 1960s with an occasional R&B hit but never breaking into stardom. Upon leaving Columbia in the late 1960s for the Atlantic label, she was teamed with a R&B group from Alabama, the Muscle Shoals Sounds Rhythm Section, and was often on the keyboard accompanying herself. She gained international success with 10 recordings on the Top Ten Chart in a 18-month period between early spring of 1967 to late 1968 along with a steady stream of hits for the next five years. Released in 1967, “Chain of Fools”was #1 on the R&B chart, #2 on the Pop Chart, received a Grammy Award for Best R&B Female Performance, later Grammy Hall of Fame Award and became an anthem for those serving in the Vietnam War. Besides her R&B and Gospel hits, she had a wide range of songs with first-class originals and through the years, covered other artists' songs from Adele, the Beatles, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, the Drifters, Barbara Streisand, Gladys Knight, to Simon & Garfunkel. In the 1970s, she had commercial and artistic success with huge hits such as “Spanish Harlem,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Day Dreaming.” Two of her most respected albums were “Live at Fillmore West” and “Amazing Grace,” a two record album in 1972 with James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir, which was one of the greatest gospel crossover hits to reach the pop charts. Her Atlantic Records contract ended at the end of the 1970s, and she signed with Clive Davis' recording label, Arista. By 1979 she had released nineteen albums. That same year, her father received a gunshot wound during a armed home invasion, leaving him in a coma that he never recovered. During the 1980s, she recorded “Get It Right” and Grammy-winning “Freeway of Love” along with duets such as with “I Knew You Were Waiting for Me,” with George Michael. In July 1982 Luther Vandross wrote, produced and performed on her first gold album in six years, “Jump to It”. She released another gospel album hit in 1987, “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism.” She contributed songs for several movie soundtracks including “A Rose Is Still A Rose” in 1998. The album, “So Damn Happy” was released in 2003 with poor sales rankings but generated the Grammy-winning song, “Wonderful.” In 2003 she left Arista and two years later started her own label, Aretha's Records. In 2007 she released a compilation of duets, “Jewels in the Crown: All-star Duets and the Queen.” The next year she released her first holiday album, “This Christmas.” After recuperating from major health declines in 2010, she released her first album in 2011 on her own label, “A Woman Falling Out of Love.” At that point, she signed with the RCA label with Clive Davis and released “Babyface.” Then she released “Aretha Franklin: Sings Divia Classics,” which covered Adele's “Rolling in the Deep,” Diana Ross', “Ain't No Mountain High Enough,” Gloria Gaylor's “I'll Survive,” and Alicia Keys', “No One.” She was the recipient of the Grammy Legend Award in 1991, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994, and the Grammy MusiCares Person of the Year Award in 2008. She performed at the inaugurations of United States Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and was the honored recipient of the Presidential Medal of Honor from President George W. Bush. She performed at the 25th annual gala for the AIDS Foundation in fall of 2017 and supported other worthy charities such as Feeding America, Childhood Diabetes, Special Olympics and many more. Pancreatic cancer of the “neuroendocrine type” was her official cause of death as reported by her private oncologist.
Bio by: Linda Davis