By: Jay Nault
No matter who you are or where you’ve been, chances are that you’ve heard one or more of Aretha Franklin’s songs. Chances are also that you’ve had one of those classics ringing pleasurably in your head for hours on end. The Queen of Soul has that effect on people everywhere, and she’s heading out on the road again this summer to provide millions of her fans with another reason to cherish her work.
Franklin was born in Memphis on March 25, 1942. After a bit of moving around, her family settled in Detroit when Aretha was seven. She was exposed to music at an early age, and began singing in her father’s church. She was soon a very popular member of the choir, and she produced her first recording at the age of 14.
Subsequent to this first recording, Franklin entered “adulthood” almost immediately. She signed a recording contract with Columbia Records and became a mother when she was 15, having her first son, Clarence, Jr. Franklin had another son, Eddie, when she was 16.
At this point, Franklin had to make a choice - be a full-time mother or pursue her music career. She chose the latter, as her grandmother helped her care for her sons while she continued to record songs. Franklin married Ted White in 1962 and had another son, “Teddy” White, Jr. in 1969.
She stayed with Columbia Records until 1967, when she moved to Atlantic Records, and the results were almost immediate due to the expanded artistic freedom she had with her new label. Franklin dabbled in gospel, soul and blues themes with her music, and several of her songs from this time period became top hits.
However, it was her R&B work that earned her the nickname, “The Queen of Soul” in the 1960’s. Franklin’s work with Atlantic Records made her an international star, and several of her most famous songs, including Respect were released during this period.
Franklin continued to not only tour but to record, and her career totals are astonishing. She has released a total of 52 albums, and has had 17 singles reach the Top Ten of the US Hot 100 Singles chart.
Franklin has also won 17 Grammy Awards in several categories, but that is far from her only entry into her list of accomplishments. Franklin became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and was the second woman to gain entry into the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005.
The Queen of Soul has also been recognized by more than one President of the United States. In 1999, President Bill Clinton awarded Franklin with the National Medal of Arts, and President George W. Bush bestowed upon Franklin the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.
What It All Means
All of these accomplishments should make it clear that Aretha Franklin is a national icon. She has appeared in movies like The Blues Brothers in 1980 and sang the national anthem in her adopted hometown of Detroit prior to Super Bowl XL.
Her songs are timeless, and the memories from her live shows live on in the minds of all who are lucky enough to be able to attend a concert. Franklin will be providing those same memories this summer.