Aretha Louise LaTundra Franklin (born March 25, 1942) is an American soul, R&B and gospel singer born in Memphis, Tennessee and raised in Detroit, Michigan. She has been dubbed "The Queen Of Soul" and "Lady Soul." Renowned for her soul and R&B recordings, she is also adept at gospel, jazz, rock, blues, pop, and even opera. She is regarded as one of the best vocalists ever by Rolling Stone Magazine and VH1, due to her ability to inject her songs powerful emotion and conviction.  The second most honored female popular singer in Grammy history, Ms. Franklin has won eighteen competitive Grammy awards, including an unprecedented eleven for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. The state of Michigan has declared her voice to be a natural wonder.
Franklin has had two number one hit songs on the Billboard Hot 100, "Respect" in the 1960s, and her 1980s duet with George Michael, "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)." Many of her singles have hit Top 10, and Top 5 positions.
Aretha Franklin was born in Memphis in a religious family headed by Baptist preacher Rev C.L. Franklin, one of America's best known Negro preachers, who was called "the most imitated soul preacher in history" by the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Aretha's mother, Barbara, was a talented gospel singer in her own right. However, Barbara left the family for unexplained reasons when Aretha was only six years old, dying four years later without seeing the family again. Aretha nevertheless recalls her fondly. "I was young but I remember how warm and beautiful she was," Aretha wrote. "I was very close to her and I can't say which, if either of my parents was the greater influence on me."
The family lived in Buffalo, New York for a short time before moving to Detroit, Michigan when Aretha was seven. As a child, Aretha and her sisters, Carolyn and Erma, sang at their father's Detroit-area church. One of their two brothers, Cecil, became a minister like their father, but was also Aretha's manager for a time. Their other brother, Vaughn, became a career Air Force pilot.
In Detroit, C.L.'s preaching talents gained him a national reputation. His sermons were broadcast nationally over the radio waves, and scores of his live sermons were eventually released on popular LP recordings. Because of her father's fame as a preacher, Aretha's talents as a gospel singer gained attention while she was still a young girl. She accompanied C.L. on preaching tours, reaching virtually every corner of the United States. In 1956 she began recording for the Checker/Battle label, which released a collection of her songs under the title "The Gospel Soul of Aretha Franklin."
Ms. Franklin gave birth to her first two sons while she was still a teenager. Clarence, Jr. was born when she was 15, and Edward ("Eddie") was born when she was 16. She dropped out of high school soon after Eddie's birth. Her grandmother took in her sons to help Aretha move on in her career.
In her late teens, Aretha decided to cross over into secular music and signed with Columbia Records after meeting legendary A&R man John Hammond. In the early 1960s, she had a few mildly popular songs, most notably "Rock-a-bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody." Columbia wanted her as a jazz singer, but the results never gave full rein to Aretha's talents.
After moving to Atlantic Records in 1967, Franklin teamed up with producers Jerry Wexler and Arif Mardin, resulting in some of the most influential R&B recordings of the 1960s, including the evocative "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)." Her album of the same name is considered a classic. By the late 1960s, Franklin had earned the nickname "The Queen of Soul", having become an internationally famous artist and a symbol of pride for the Black community. Franklin said of this period, "When I went to Atlantic, they just sat me down at the piano and the hits started coming."
Among her most successful hit singles from this era were "Chain of Fools", "You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman)," "Think," "Baby I Love You," "The House That Jack Built," and "Respect. " The latter, a cover of an Otis Redding single not only became her signature song, but also served as an anthem for the Women's Liberation movement of the late 60s and early 70s.
Franklin married Ted White in 1962. They had one son, Theodore "Teddy" White, Jr. (b. 1969). The marriage ended in 1969 and she has always refused to answer questions about it. A Time Magazine cover story in 1968 led to a lawsuit from Ted White over allegations that he had roughed her up in public. Always concerned with her privacy, the episode made her guard her personal life even more, and she gave no interviews for several. Despite the divorce, White became her manager during her years with Columbia Records.
After the Best Female R&B Vocal Performance category was introduced to the Grammy Awards in 1968, Aretha won successively the first eight ever awarded trophies in that category (from 1968-1975) and added three more to her collection in the 1980s. Surprisingly she never made it to number one in the United Kingdom pop charts — her best result being a number four with her version of Burt Bacharach's "I Say a Little Prayer" in 1968.
Aretha released several more hits in the 1970s in various genres, including notable covers of songs by The Beatles ("Eleanor Rigby"), The Band ("The Weight"), Simon & Garfunkel ("Bridge Over Troubled Water), Sam Cooke and The Drifters. Live at Fillmore West and Amazing Grace were two of her most influential full-length releases. Her band for the Fillmore record included musicians King Curtis, Bernard Purdie and Billy Preston. Amazing Grace was a double LP of live gospel music recorded in a Los Angeles Baptist church.
In the early 1970s, her music mellowed slightly, and she continued the successful relationship with Wexler and Mardin while beginning to take a greater role in producing her work. A partnership with Quincy Jones led to a album in 1973 Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky). Despite disappointing sales, the album produced a standout track "Angel", written by her sister Carolyn. Aretha's last collaboration with Wexler was the Atlantic LP You was released in 1975.
Franklin released several additional LPs for Atlantic after You including Sparkle in 1976, which yielded a #1 R&B single, "(Giving Him) Something He Can Feel." Other albums included Sweet Passion, Almighty Fire (also produced by Curtis Mayfield) and La Diva.
By this time, Wexler had left Atlantic and their partnership was over. Despite working with artists of the stature of Curtis Mayfield, Franklin's popularity and critical success waned during the mid to late 1970s and the 1980s, though she scored several hits, often with partners (such as Luther Vandross). Her most notable 1980s hit was the dance song "Freeway of Love", which charted in 1985. Most critics dismiss her post-Atlantic material as far inferior to the legendary recordings of the mid to late sixties.
She had a memorable film role in the original Blues Brothers movie of 1980, performing a sassy version of "Think" as the wife of the guitar player (Matt "Guitar" Murphy) whom the brothers attempt to woo back out on the road. She reprised the role in the 1998 sequel. Also in 1998, she surprisingly stepped in at the last minute to sing the standard aria Nessun Dorma (Puccini's Turandot) at that year's Grammy telecast when Luciano Pavarotti took ill.
Aretha won another Grammy for her song "Wonderful" in 2004 and in 2006 was awarded the Best Traditional R&B Vocal award for "A House Is Not a Home," a track from the Luther Vandross tribute "So Amazing."
Ms. Franklin lives today in Detroit when not on tour. She joined Aaron Neville and Dr. John in performing the national anthem prior to Super Bowl XL on February 5, 2006, along with a 150-voice choir.
As of 2006 Aretha Franklin had won eighteen Grammy Awards in total during her 45-year career, and holds the record for most Best Female R&B Vocal Performance wins with 11 to her name (including eight consecutive awards from 1968-1975-the first eight ever awarded in that category).
|1968||Best Rhythm And Blues Recording||R&B||Respect|
|1968||Best Female R&B Vocal Performance||R&B||Respect|
|1969||Best Female R&B Vocal Performance||R&B||Chain Of Fools|
|1970||Best Female R&B Vocal Performance||R&B||Share Your Love With Me|
|1971||Best Female R&B Vocal Performance||R&B||Don't Play That Song|
|1972||Best Female R&B Vocal Performance||R&B||Bridge Over Troubled Water|
|1973||Best Female R&B Vocal Performance||R&B||Young, Gifted and Black|
|1973||Best Soul Gospel Performance||Gospel||Amazing Grace|
|1974||Best Female R&B Vocal Performance||R&B||Master Of Eyes|
|1975||Best Female R&B Vocal Performance||R&B||Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing|
|1982||Best Female R&B Vocal Performance||R&B||Hold On I'm Comin'|
|1986||Best Female R&B Vocal Performance||R&B||Freeway Of Love|
|1988||Best Female R&B Vocal Performance||R&B||Aretha|
|1988||Best R&B Vocal By Duo Or Group||R&B||I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)
With George Michael
|2004||Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance||R&B||Wonderful|
|2006||Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance||R&B||House Is Not A Home|
For a detailed account of Aretha Franklin releases, see the Aretha Franklin discography.
Top 10 US Hot 100 singles:
|1967||"I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)"||9|
|1967||"Baby I Love You"||4|
|1967||"(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman"||8|
|1967||"Chain Of Fools"||2|
|1968||"(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone"||5|
|1968||"The House That Jack Built"||6|
|1968||"I Say a Little Prayer"||10|
|1971||"Bridge Over Troubled Water" / "Brand New Me"||6|
|1973||"Until You Come Back to Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)"||3|
|1985||"Who's Zoomin Who?"||7|
|1985||"Freeway of Love"||3|
|1987||"I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" (with George Michael)||1|
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