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Guide Profile: Aretha Franklin

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Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin

Born:

Aretha Louise Franklin, March 25, 1942, Memphis, TN

Genres:

Soul, R&B, Gospel, Deep Soul, Southern Soul, Pop

Instruments:

Vocals, Piano

Contributions to music:

  • The most important female soul artist of all time
  • Brought her gospel roots into secular R&B, thus helping create "soul music"
  • One of rock's finest pianists
  • Served as a symbol for the burgeoning "women's rights" movement
  • Interpreted and wrote songs from a purely female perspective
  • An important cultural figurehead in the civil rights movement
  • One of rock and roll's finest interpretive singers

Early years:

Although born in soul's capitol city, Memphis, the Franklin family soon moved to Detroit, MI, where her father, Baptist minister Reverend C.L. Franklin, soon became one of the most revered public figures in black America. His passionate speeches led to associations with gospel legends like Mahalia Jackson and Clara Ward, and Aretha (not to mention her sisters, Emma and Carolyn) soon became well-known gospel singers in their own right. Aretha recorded her first gospel LP at the tender age of 14.

Success:

Her gospel success led legendary talent scout John Hammond Jr. to sign her to Columbia Records, but the label sought to market her as a jazz talent since gospel had not yet bled into the pop mainstream. Aretha scored some minor hits for Columbia, but it was only after the success of Sam Cooke that Atlantic signed a struggling Aretha and set her up with the famous Muscle Shoals musicians to make "soul" music. From 1967-1973 Aretha was a dominant force on the pop and R&B charts.

Later years:

By the mid-Seventies Atlantic's sound had played itself out for many listeners, and Aretha struggled (although she continued to chart here and there). Her appearance in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers led to a contract with a new label, Arista, and in the mid-Eighties she scored an amazing comeback with her album Who's Zoomin' Who. Although her new success waned by the early Nineties, Franklin remains a force in popular music, able to essay jazz, soul, pop and gospel with equal authority.

Other facts:

  • Was almost signed to Motown Records in the early Sixties
  • Endured a stormy marriage to her manager, Ted White, from 1962-1969, which she refuses to discuss
  • Was once in line to star in a Broadway musical tribute to Mahalia Jackson
  • Otis Redding was pleasantly shocked by her cover of his song "Respect," claiming good-naturedly that she "stole" it from him
  • Is known as "The Queen of Soul" and "Lady Soul"
  • Has a lifelong fear of flying
  • Had her voice declared a natural resource by the state of Michigan

Awards/Honors:

  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1987)
  • Grammy Hall of Fame (1998, 1999, 2001)
  • Kennedy Center Honors (1994)
  • 16 Grammy Awards (1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1981, 1985, 1987, 1988, 2003)

Important Songs:


#1 hits:
Pop:
  • "Respect" (1967)
  • "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" (1987)
R&B:
  • "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)" (1967)
  • "Respect" (1967)
  • "Baby I Love You" (1967)
  • "Chain Of Fools" (1968)
  • "Since You've Been Gone (Sweet Sweet Baby)" (1968)
  • "Think" (1968)
  • "Share Your Love With Me" (1969)
  • "Call Me" (1970)
  • "Don't Play That Song" (1970)
  • "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (1971)
  • "Spanish Harlem" (1971)
  • "Day Dreaming" (1972)
  • "Angel" (1973)
  • "I'm In Love" (1974)
  • "Until You Come Back To Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)" (1974)
  • "Something He Can Feel" (1976)
  • "Break It To Me Gently" (1977)
  • "Jump To It" (1982)
  • "Get It Right" (1983)
  • "Freeway of Love" (1985)

Top 10 hits:
Pop:
  • "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)" (1967)
  • "Baby I Love You" (1967)
  • "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" (1967)
  • "Chain Of Fools" (1968)
  • "I Say A Little Prayer" (1968)
  • "Since You've Been Gone (Sweet Sweet Baby)" (1968)
  • "Think" (1968)
  • "The House That Jack Built" (1968)
  • "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (1971)
  • "Brand New Me" (1971)
  • "Spanish Harlem" (1971)
  • "Rock Steady" (1971)
  • "Day Dreaming" (1972)
  • "Until You Come Back To Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)" (1974)
  • "Freeway of Love" (1985)
  • "Who's Zoomin' Who" (1985)
R&B:
  • 34 Top Ten hits
#1 albums:
R&B:
  • I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You (1967)
  • Aretha Arrives (1967)
  • Aretha Now (1968)
  • Aretha: Lady Soul (1968)
  • Aretha Franklin: Soul '69 (1969)
  • Aretha's Gold (1969)
  • Aretha Live At Fillmore West (1971)
  • Amazing Grace (1972)
  • Let Me In Your Life (1974)
  • Sparkle (1976)
  • Jump To It (1982)
Gospel:
  • One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism (1987)
Top Ten albums:
Pop:
  • I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You (1967)
  • Aretha Arrives (1967)
  • Aretha Now (1968)
  • Aretha: Lady Soul (1968)
  • Aretha Live At Fillmore West (1971)
  • Amazing Grace (1972)
R&B:
  • 30 Top Ten albums
Covered by: Hall and Oates, Stevie Wonder, Cyndi Lauper, Prince, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Booker T. and the MGs, Alison Moyet, Basia, Miki Howard, Patti Austin, Natalie Merchant
Appears in the movies: "The Blues Brothers" (1980), "Tom Dowd and the Language of Music" (2003)
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