Aretha Franklin was born Aretha Louise Franklin on March 25, 1942. She was an American singer, songwriter, pianist and famous Queen of Soul. Aretha Franklin was born at 406 Lucy Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee, to Barbara (née Siggers) and Clarence LaVaughn “C. L.” Franklin. Her father was a preacher originally from Shelby, Mississippi, while her mother was an accomplished piano player and vocalist. The apple could not have fallen too far from the tree. It is known that both her parents had three children from outside their marriage. When Aretha was just two years old her family relocated to Buffalo, New York. Before she turned five C. L. Franklin permanently relocated the family to Detroit, Michigan where he took over the pastorship of New Bethel Baptist Church. Aretha‘s parents had a troubled marriage due to stories of her father’s philandering and in 1948, her parents separated, with Barbara relocating back to Buffalo with her son, Vaughn, from a previous relationship. Aretha Franklin saw her bother during the summer and her mother frequently visited her children in Detroit. Shortly before Aretha turned ten, her mother died of a heart attack on March 7, 1952. After the death of her mum, Aretha learned how to play the piano by ear. It was the birth of a musical hero.
According to Wikipedia, “Aretha’s father’s emotionally driven sermons resulted in his being known as the man with the “million-dollar voice” and earning thousands of dollars for sermons in various churches across the country. His celebrity status led to his home being visited by various celebrities, among them gospel musicians Clara Ward, James Cleveland and early Caravans members Albertina Walker and Inez Andrews as well as Martin Luther King Jr., Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke.” It is said that Clara Ward was not merely a visitor to the home of the preacher but was romantically involved with him too. Though, she preferred to view them strictly as friends she was also a role model to the young Aretha Franklin Aretha attended Northern High School but later dropped out during her sophomore year.
The birth of her career was when she began singing gospel at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, where her father, C. L. Franklin, was a minister, as a child. At the tender age of 12, her father became her manager. He took her on the road with him during his “gospel caravan” tours. She performed in various churches. He also helped his daughter sign her first recording deal with J.V.B. Records, where her first album, Songs of Faith, was released in 1956. The master of song that was Aretha Franklin at times travelled with The Soul Stirrers during this time. In 1958, Aretha Franklin travelled alongside her father to California, where she met Sam Cooke. At the young age of 16, she was already a big part of the human rights movement in the United States of America. Aretha Franklin went on tour with Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. and in 1968 sang at his funeral. A powerhouse in a young woman.
At the age of 18, Aretha expressed to her father, her desire to follow in the footsteps of Sam Cooke, to record pop music. Leaving the Gospel train, the secular music was waiting patiently for Aretha Franklin to conquer it. Her father agreed, and they moved to New York, where he produced two of her songs. Those defining songs caught the attention of Columbia Records. The Record label signed Aretha Franklin in 1960, at the age of 18. She was signed to Columbia Records as a 5 per =cent artist and was coached by choreographer Cholly Atkins to prepare for her pop performances. Before signing with Columbia, Sam Cooke along with another label showed interest in signing Aretha Franklin and her sister, however, their father felt the label was not big enough yet, therefore he turned it down.
In January 1961, Columbia issued Franklin’s first secular album, Aretha: With the Ray Bryant Combo. The album featured her first single to chart the Billboard Hot 100, “Won’t Be Long”, which also peaked at number 7 on the R&B chart. During her time at Columbia, Aretha performed a series of genres such as standards, vocal jazz, blues, doo-wop and rhythm and blues. Before the end of the year, Aretha Franklin bagged her first top 40 single with her rendition of the standard, “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody”, which also included the R&B hit, “Operation Heartbreak”, on its B-side. “Rock-a-Bye” became her first international hit as it reached the top 40 in Australia and Canada. By the end of 1961, Franklin was named as a “new-star female vocalist” in Down Beat magazine. In 1962, Columbia issued two more albums, The Electrifying Aretha Franklin and The Tender, the Moving, the Swinging Aretha Franklin which charted at number 69 on the Billboard Charts. Aretha Franklin performed across various nightclubs, theatres and events. She was successful but modestly successful.
After signing to Atlantic Records in 1967, Aretha Franklin achieved commercial acclaim and success with songs such as “Respect”, “Chain of Fools”, “Think”, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)”, and “Spanish Harlem”. Tracks like ‘Respect’ and ‘A Natural Woman’ are still sung to this very day. It was the birth of the fierce diva from Detroit. The song “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” was issued that February and reached 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. “Respect” became her signature song and was later hailed as a civil rights and feminist anthem. An Icon was born. In that same year, Aretha released two number one singles, and her album went gold. She was an uncontrollable success, releasing hit track after hit track. This was Aretha Louise Franklin to the world as she dominated the 70s. In 1980, Aretha Franklin signed with Clive Davis’s Arista Records and that same year gave a command performance at London’s Royal Albert Hall in front of Queen Elizabeth. Franklin also had an acclaimed guest role as a waitress in the 1980 comedy musical The Blues Brothers. Her album ‘Who’s Zooming Who’ was certified platinum.
Aretha Franklin changed the face of soul music over the years and was a force to be reckoned with in music. She inspired many, millions and her voice was heard loud and clear in activism. She was married twice and divorced both times and had four sons. In 1979, she received a star on the Holly Wood Walk of Fame and became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences awarded her a Grammy Legend Award in 1991, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994. Franklin was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1994, recipient of the National Medal of Arts in 1999, and was bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. She was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame in 2005. Aretha went on to win more awards and honours. She has battled with her health over the years, however, her weight loss issues have been present for decades. At the 2011 Grammy Awards, she was honoured by numerous artists, singing a medley of her songs. In 2017, she cancelled many shows due to her health. On August 13, 2018, it was reported that the legend was greatly ill and was visited by her friends and family. In the most recent Aretha Franklin news, on August 16, 2018, music lost the icon that was and forever will be Aretha Franklin.