One of the best singers ever, Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin
Wed, 1942-03-25

*Aretha Franklin was born on this date in 1942. She is one of the most accomplished and influential vocalists of the last two centuries.

Franklin was born in Memphis and grew up in Detroit, where her father, the Rev. C. L. Franklin, was the pastor at the New Bethel Baptist Church. She began singing church music at an early age, and recorded her first album, The Gospel Sound of Aretha Franklin, for the Checker label at age 14. Her early influences, however, included secular singers like Dinah Washington, Sam Cooke, LaVern Baker, and Ruth Brown. Franklin signed with Columbia Records in 1960, yet her tenure at Columbia was open to doubt and found her dabbling in pop and jazz styles.

Columbia’s white ideals misunderstood her brilliance. With her switch to Atlantic Records in 1966, Aretha helped usher in an era of fresh, straightforward soul music. It began with her first single for the label; I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Loved You). Her next achievement was Respect, a fervent reworking of an Otis Redding song. Working with producer Jerry Wexler, engineer Tom Dowd, and arranger Arif Mardin, Franklin rewrote the book on soul music in the late Sixties with a string of smash crossover singles that included Chain of Fools, Think and A Natural Woman (You Make Me Feel).

The Seventies brought continued success to Franklin, who has to date, charted more million-sellers than any other woman in recording history did. "Lady Soul" (as she was dubbed) released Spirit in the Dark and Young, Gifted and Black. Her long tenure with Atlantic came to an end in 1980 and she signed with Arista. There, she recorded everything from gospel to dance music, including Freeway of Love and I Knew You Were Waiting (for Me). In 1987, she became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Franklin backed out of the spotlight in 1988, the year that her sister Carolyn, her brother, and her manager all died. What followed was a long line of accolades, a performance at President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration, and countless minor projects such as a biography and television special. In 1998, Franklin recorded A Rose Is Still a Rose. Aretha Franklin, the "Queen of Soul," remains one of the greatest vocalists of the age, a singer of great passion, and control whose finest recordings characterize the term soul music in all its deep, expressive glory. As Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun said, "I don’t think there’s anybody I have known who possesses an instrument like hers and who has such a thorough background in gospel, the blues and the essential black-music idiom.

She is blessed with an extraordinary combination of remarkable inner-city sophistication and of the deep blues feeling that comes from the Delta. The results, maybe she is the greatest singer of our time." Franklin's latest CD is called "So Damn Happy."

ACSAP Biographical Dictionary
R. R. Bowker Co., Copyright 1980
ISBN 0-8351-1283-1

Heart & Soul
A Celebration of Black Music Style in America 1930-1975
by Merlis Davin Seay, Forward by Etta james
Copyright 2002, Billboard Books
ISBN 0-8230-8314-4

To Become a Musician or Singer

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Franklin, Aretha