Multiple Grammy winner and “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin was known for a huge number of hits including Respect, Freeway of Love, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, and I Say a Little Prayer.
Aretha Franklin was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1942. Her father was a charismatic Baptist minister and circuit preacher, while her mother was an accomplished piano player and vocalist.
Aretha’s musical gifts became apparent at an early age. Largely self-taught, she was regarded as a child prodigy. A gifted pianist with a powerful voice, she got her start singing in front of her father’s congregation.
By the age of 14, she had recorded some of her earliest tracks at her father’s church. She also performed with his traveling revival show, befriending gospel greats such as Mahalia Jackson, Sam Cooke and Clara Ward.
Life on the road also exposed her to adult behaviours, and she gave birth to a son born shortly before her 13th birthday, followed by another son two years later, with both taking her surname. She would have two more sons in later years.
At the age of 16, Aretha went on tour with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and she would ultimately sing at his funeral in 1968.
In 1966, her version of Otis Redding’s Respect reached number one on both the R&B and pop charts. It became her signature song and was later hailed as a civil rights and feminist anthem.
Growing up in the home of a prominent African-American preacher, Aretha was immersed in the struggle for civil rights and women’s rights. For many years she provided money for civil rights groups, at times covering payroll, and performed at benefits and protests. She was also a strong supporter for Native American rights.
In 1987 Aretha became the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 2008 she won her 18th Grammy Award, making her one of the most honoured artists in Grammy history.
In 2010, Rolling Stone magazine ranked her number one on its list of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time”. She died in 2018 at the age of 76.
Aretha performing (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, honouring songwriter Carol King in 2015, aged 73!