Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” died Thursday after a long battle with advanced pancreatic cancer.
Aretha passed away in her Detroit home where she was under hospice care. She had been fighting against with undisclosed health issues that had kept her off stage in recent months. In March of 2018, she canceled a pair of scheduled concerts in due to what her management described as doctor’s orders. In subsequent months, she canceled scheduled performances in Boston and Toronto with management again saying that her doctors had told her to “stay off the road and rest completely.”
At one of her last public performances, in June 2017, she closed out a free concert in her hometown of Detroit with the message: “God bless you, God keep you, keep me in your prayers.”
From Wipekedia: Born Match 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee, Aretha Louise Franklin began her career as a child singing gospel at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, where her father, C. L. Franklin, was minister. In 1960, at the age of 18, she embarked on a secular career, recording for Columbia Records but only achieving modest success. Following her signing to Atlantic Records in 1967, Franklin achieved commercial acclaim and success with songs such as “Respect”, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, “Spanish Harlem” and “Think”. By the end of the 1960s she had gained the title “The Queen of Soul.”
By 1964, Franklin began recording more pop music, reaching the top ten on the R&B chart with the ballad, “Runnin’ Out of Fools” in early 1965. She had two R&B charted singles in 1965 and 1966 with the songs “One Step Ahead” and “Cry Like a Baby” while also reaching the Easy Listening charts with the ballads “You Made Me Love You” and “(No, No) I’m Losing You.”
Also during that period, Franklin appeared on rock and roll shows such as “Hollywood A Go-Go” and “Shindig!” However, it was argued that Franklin’s potential was neglected at the label. Columbia executive John H. Hammond later said he felt Columbia did not understand Franklin’s early gospel background and failed to bring that aspect out further during her Columbia period.
In November 1966, choosing not to renew her Columbia contract after six years with the company, Franklin signed to Atlantic Records. In January 1967, she traveled to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to record at FAME Studios to record the song, “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” in front of the musicians of the famed Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. The song was later issued that February and shot up to number-one on the R&B chart, while also peaking at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100, giving Franklin her first top ten pop single. The song’s b-side, “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man”, reached the R&B top 40, peaking at number 37. In April, Atlantic issued her frenetic version of Otis Redding’s “Respect”, which shot to number-one on both the R&B and pop charts and later became her signature song and was later hailed as a civil rights and feminist anthem.
Franklin’s success expanded during the early 1970s in which she recorded top ten singles such as “Spanish Harlem”, “Rock Steady” and “Day Dreaming” as well as the acclaimed albums Spirit in the Dark, Young, Gifted & Black, and her gospel album, Amazing Grace, which sold over two million copies. In 1971, Franklin became the first R&B performer to headline Fillmore West, later releasing the live album Aretha Live at Fillmore West. Franklin’s career began to experience problems while recording the album, Hey Now Hey, which featured production from Quincy Jones. Despite the success of the single “Angel”, the album bombed upon its release in 1973. Franklin continued having R&B success with songs such as “Until You Come Back to Me” and “I’m in Love”, but by 1975 her albums and songs were no longer top sellers. After Jerry Wexler left Atlantic for Warner Bros. Records in 1976, Franklin worked on the soundtrack to the film Sparkle with Curtis Mayfield. The album yielded Franklin’s final top 40 hit of the decade, “Something He Can Feel”, which also peaked at number-one on the R&B chart. Franklin’s follow-up albums for Atlantic, including Sweet Passion, Almighty Fire and La Diva, bombed on the charts, and in 1979 Franklin opted to leave the company.
In 1980, after leaving Atlantic Records, Franklin signed with Clive Davis’ Arista Records and that same year gave a command performance at the Royal Albert Hall in front of Queen Elizabeth. Franklin also made an acclaimed guest role as a waitress in the comedy musical, The Blues Brothers. Franklin’s first Arista album, Aretha, featured the No. 3 R&B hit, “United Together” and her Grammy-nominated cover of Otis Redding’s “I Can’t Turn You Loose”. The follow-up, 1981’s Love All the Hurt Away, included her famed duet of the title track with George Benson while the album also included her Grammy-winning cover of Sam & Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Comin'”. Franklin returned to the Gold standard– for the first time in seven years– with the album, Jump to It. Its title track was her first top 40 single on the pop charts in six years.
In 1985, inspired by her desire to have a “younger sound” in her music, her fifth Arista album, Who’s Zoomin’ Who?, became her first album to be certified platinum, after selling well over a million copies, thanks to the hits, “Freeway of Love”, the title track and “Another Night”. The following year’s Aretha album nearly matched this success with the hit singles “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, “Jimmy Lee” and “I Knew You Were Waiting for Me”, her international number-one duet with George Michael. During that period, Franklin provided vocals to the theme songs of the TV shows A Different World and Together. In 1987, she issued her third gospel album, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, which was recorded at her late father’s New Bethel church, followed by Through the Storm in 1989. Franklin’s 1991 album, What You See is What You Sweat, flopped on the charts. Franklin returned to the charts in 1993 with the dance song “A Deeper Love” and returned to the top 40 with the song “Willing to Forgive” in 1994.
In 1998, Franklin returned to the top 40 with the Lauryn Hill-produced song, “A Rose Is Still a Rose”, later issuing the album of the same name, which went gold. That same year, Franklin earned international acclaim for her performance of “Nessun Dorma” at the Grammy Awards. Her final Arista album, So Damn Happy, was released in 2003 and featured the Grammy-winning song, “Wonderful”. In 2004, Franklin announced that she was leaving Arista after over 20 years with the label. To complete her Arista obligations, Franklin issued the duets compilation album, Jewels in the Crown: All-Star Duets with the Queen, in 2007. The following year, she issued the holiday album, This Christmas, Aretha, on DMI Records.
In December 2015, Franklin gave an acclaimed performance of “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman” at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors during the section for honoree Carole King, who co-wrote the song. she returned to Detroit’s Ford Field on Thanksgiving Day 2016 to once again perform the national anthem before the game between the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions. Seated behind the piano in a black fur coat and Lions stocking cap, this rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” lasted over four minutes and featured a host of improvisations by Franklin.
Franklin released the album A Brand New Me in November 2017 with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which uses archived recordings from her past. It peaked at #5 on the Billboard Top Classical Albums chart.
In total, she won 18 Grammy awards, beginning with Best Rhythm and Blues Recording for “Respect” in 1968 and ending with Best Gospel-Soul Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group for “Never Gonna Break My Faith” with Mary J. Blige in 2008.
Franklin was married twice, to Ted White, who became her personal manager, and to actor Glynn Turman. She also had a seven-year relationship with her road manager, Ken Cunningham.
She was the mother of four sons: Clarence, Edward, Ted and Kecalf.