1942 – Aretha Franklin is born in Memphis, Tenn. In 1987 she becomes the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Her hits include “Respect,” “Chain of Fools” and “Think.” Also, voted number 1 of the top 100 Rock/pop/soul singers of the last century by Rolling Stone magazine… Pretty impressive.
Aretha Louise Franklin (born March 25, 1942)
Franklin is one of the most honored artists by the Grammy Awards, with 20 Grammys to date, which include the Living Legend Grammy and the Lifetime Achievement Grammy. She also sang at the presidential inauguration of 44th President of the United States Barack Obama. She has scored a total of 20 #1 singles on the Billboard R&B Singles Chart, two of which also became #1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100: “Respect” (1967) and “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” (1987), a duet with George Michael. Since 1961, Franklin has scored a total of 45 “Top 40” hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
In 1987, Franklin became the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Aretha Louise Franklin
Early life and career
Franklin was born on March 25,1942, at Memphis, Tennessee to the Rev. C. L. Franklin, a Baptist minister, and Barbara Siggers Franklin. Aretha’s parents had a troubled relationship and separated when Aretha was six. Siggers died of a heart attack when Franklin was ten. The fourth of five siblings, Aretha’s father’s first pulpit after Memphis was in Buffalo, New York. The family subsequently moved to Detroit, Michigan where they grew up, Rev. Franklin assumed the pulpit of the New Bethel Baptist Church, and gained national fame as a preacher. Adept at the piano as well as having a gifted voice, Franklin became a child prodigy. By the age of fourteen, she signed a record deal with JVB/Battle Records, where her father recorded his sermons and gospel vocal recordings, and she issued Songs of Faith in 1956. Her earlier influences included Clara Ward and Mahalia Jackson, both of whom spent a lot of time in Aretha’s home.
Teenage pregnancies derailed Franklin’s gospel career when she gave birth to Clarence in 1955 (at age 13) and Edward in 1957 (at age 15). When she returned to singing, Aretha decided to secure herself a deal as a pop artist. After being offered contracts from Motown and RCA, Franklin signed with Columbia Records in 1960. Her recordings during that time reflected a jazz influence and moved away from her gospel roots. Franklin initially scored a few hits on Columbia including her version of “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby (With A Dixie Melody)”, which peaked at number 37 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart in 1961, and the Top 10 R&B hits, “Today I Sing The Blues”, “Won’t Be Long” and “Operation Heartbreak”. However, by the end of 1966, with little commercial success in six years with Columbia and desperate for a sound of her own, she accepted an offer to sign with Atlantic Records. According to Franklin years later, “they made me sit down on the piano and the hits came”.
“Soul Sister #1”
In 1967 Franklin issued her first Atlantic single, “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)”, a blues ballad that introduced listeners to her gospel style. Produced by Jerry Wexler, the song became Franklin’s breakthrough single reaching the Top 10 on the Hot 100, and holding the #1 spot for 7 weeks on Billboard’s R&B Singles chart. The B-side, “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man”, charted on the R&B side, and introduced a more gospel element to Franklin’s developing sound.
Her next single, “Respect”, written and originally recorded by Otis Redding, firmly launched Franklin on the road to superstardom. Franklin’s feminist version of the song became her signature tune for life, reaching #1 on both the R&B and the Pop charts—holding the top spot on the former chart for a record 8 weeks—and helping her Atlantic debut album, I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You, reach million-seller status. In the next ten months, Franklin released a number of top ten hits including “Baby I Love You”, “Chain of Fools” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”.
In early 1968 Franklin won her first two Grammies (for “Respect”), including the first Grammy awarded in the “Best Female R&B Vocal Performance” category. She went on to win eight “Best Female R&B Vocal Performance” awards in a row. Over the next seven years, Franklin continued to score hit singles including “Think”, “The House That Jack Built”, “I Say a Little Prayer” (a cover of Dionne Warwick’s hit), “Call Me” and “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)”. “Spanish Harlem” reached #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and even gave Aretha her first Top 10 Adult Contemporary (at the time labeled Easy Listening) hit.
By the end of the 1960s, Franklin’s position as Soul Sister #1 was firmly established. Her albums were also hot sellers; one in particular, 1972’s Amazing Grace, eventually sold over two million US copies, becoming “the best-selling gospel album of all time”. Franklin’s hit streak continued into the mid-1970s. 1973’s emotional plea “Angel”, produced by Quincy Jones and written by Franklin’s sister Carolyn, was a stand-out single that became yet another #1 on the R&B chart, although the subsequent album Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky) was not successful.
1974’s gold-certified single “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” hit #1 R&B and #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. By 1975, however, with the expanding exposure of Disco and the popularity of fellow Atlantic artist Roberta Flack, relations between Franklin and Atlantic Records were starting to strain. As a result, Aretha was recording poor material such as 1975’s listless You album, and her record sales declined dramatically. Franklin had peaked, and the music industry was moving on to younger black female singers such as Natalie Cole, Chaka Khan and Donna Summer.
Return to prominence
In 1980, Franklin’s career was given a much-needed boost by a cameo performance as Mrs. Matt Murphy in The Blues Brothers, singing Think. That same year Clive Davis signed Aretha to his Arista Records. The singles “United Together” and “Love All The Hurt Away”—a duet with George Benson—returned her to the Top 10 on the Billboard R&B Singles chart. But it was the spectacular 1982 album, Jump To It, produced by longtime admirer Luther Vandross, and the title-track single that gave Aretha her first R&B chart-topping and pop success since “(Giving Him) Something He Can Feel”. The album enjoyed a long run at #1 on Billboard’s R&B Albums chart (even the Zoomin’ album only reached #3). It won an American Music Award, was nominated for a Grammy and was certified gold in early 1983 – Aretha’s first gold disc since the 1976 Sparkle album.
The following year Franklin and Vandross collaborated again on the disappointing Get It Right. But in 1985, Franklin’s sound was commercialized into a glossy pop sound as she experienced her first-ever Platinum-certified album, Who’s Zoomin’ Who?. Yielding smash hits like the Motown-influenced “Freeway of Love” (#3 Pop/#1 R&B), the title track (#7 Pop/#2 R&B), and her duet with rock duo Eurythmics, “Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves” (#18 Pop/#66 R&B), the album became the first Platinum certification of Aretha’s entire career, introducing her sound to a younger generation of fans. In 1986, Franklin did nearly as well with an album simply titled Aretha, which yielded her first #1 Pop single in two decades with the George Michael duet, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)”. The album is noteworthy for the striking cover which was Andy Warhol’s last work before his death. Other hits included her cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and the girl group-inspired “Jimmy Lee”. When Aretha was taken out of print, it had sold over 900,000 US copies.
Aretha returned to gospel in 1987 with her album One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism which was recorded live at her New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit. However, the disc was a far cry from her 1972 effort Amazing Grace and had middling sales. Follow-ups such as 1989’s Through The Storm and 1991’s What You See Is What You Sweat sold poorly and failed to produce any major mainstream hits—other than the former album’s Elton John-featured title track—but her career got a slight boost in 1993 when she scored a dance-club hit with “Deeper Love” from the Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit soundtrack. In 1994, she scored another hit with the Babyface-produced ballad, “Willing To Forgive”, which hit the Top 5 of Billboard’s R&B chart and #26 on the Hot 100.
Franklin returned to prominence with her 1998 album, A Rose Is Still A Rose. The album’s mixture of Urban Contemporary, Hip-Hop and Soul was a departure from Franklin’s previous material. The title track, produced by Lauryn Hill, gave her a smash hit on the R&B and Pop charts and earned a gold single while the album was certified gold also, the first time since 1986’s Aretha that any of the singer’s albums went gold. That same year, with less than twenty-four hours to prepare, Franklin stepped in for Luciano Pavarotti to sing “Nessun Dorma” at the 1998 Grammy Awards. (Pavarotti, who was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award that night, was too sick to attend.) She gave a soulful and highly improvised performance in the aria’s original key, while firmly stamping out the year with a captivating performance during VH-1’s “Divas Live” telecast.
Following the success of A Rose Is Still A Rose, Franklin has continued recording if only sporadically. Her most recent full studio release was 2003’s critical and commercial failure So Damn Happy, which included the Grammy-winning track “Wonderful”. Shortly after its release, Franklin left Arista Records after twenty-three years with the company. She has since started her own label, Aretha Records, and plans to issue her long-delayed new album, A Woman Falling Out Of Love in 2009. She is also coaching young actors during auditions for a musical based on her autobiography, From These Roots.
In 1998, Franklin also took again her role of Mrs. Murphy in Blues Brothers 2000, this time singing her old hit “Think”. Like in the 1980 movie, she plays the possessive wife of the lead guitarist of the Blues Brothers Band, singing the song during a row with her husband about his joining his former band.
In 2007, Arista Records released a duets compilation album entitled, “Jewels In The Crown: All-Star Duets With The Queen.” The disc features duets performed with Mariah Carey, Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston, Richard Marx, Annie Lennox, John Legend, Mary J. Blige, Frank Sinatra, George Michael, George Benson, Fantasia, and Gloria Estefan. A duet with Faith Hill has been recorded but it’s not on the album. The album includes two new recordings with Fantasia, on the lead single “Put You Up On Game” and John Legend. The lead single “Put You Up On Game” hit radio on October 1, 2007 and became the number one most added song on Urban AC radio the following week. The album also includes Aretha’s historic rendition of “Nessun Dorma” from the 1998 Grammy telecast.
In 2008, Franklin was honored as MusiCares “Person of the Year,” two days prior to the 50th Annual Grammy Awards, where she was awarded her 18th career Grammy. Post-Grammy’s, Miss Franklin enterted into a feud with both Beyonce and Tina Turner. This was due to the fact that Beyonce introduced Turner as ‘The Queen’ prior to their show-stealing duet of Proud Mary.
Franklin sang at the inauguration concerts for Bill Clinton in 1993 and at the inauguration ceremony for Barack Obama in 2009.
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Twice divorced, Franklin is the mother of four grown sons. Two of them, Teddy Jr. and Kecalf, are active in the music business. Teddy is the musical director and guitarist of Franklin’s touring band. From 1961 to 1969, Aretha was married to her manager and co-writer Ted White. In 1978 she married Cooley High actor Glynn Turman. She also had seven year relationship with Ken Cunningham (1969-1976), the father of her youngest son. While White had been a decade older than Aretha, Cunningham and Turman were both several years younger than Aretha. In late 1982 Franklin returned to Detroit for the purpose of spending the holidays with her bed-ridden father as well as her other family members. Several months later, her ‘fear of flying’ phobia occurred. She was subsequently thwarted from returning to Glynn in California and as a result she and Turman divorced in early 1984.
She is the godmother of Whitney Houston, daughter of Cissy Houston, who also grew up to be a major R&B and Pop music star, rising to fame in the mid-1980s, and subsequently struggling with personal problems there after. A still image of Franklin was shown in the closing scene of Houston’s 1985 video for the single “How Will I Know”.
Franklin’s weight has steadily increased over the years. She has attributed this to relinquishing her 25 year tobacco habit as well as to recurring depression. Aretha’s weight has reportedly fluctuated between 230 -her slim phase- and 512 pounds in the last decade. Inspired by Star Jones, Franklin is planning to undergo gastric bypass surgery, but needs to lose a reported 100 pounds before this can be done.
Awards and achievements
Aretha Franklin wipes a tear after being honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 9, 2005, during ceremonies at the White House. Looking on are fellow recipients Robert Conquest, left, and Alan Greenspan.
* In 1985, then-Gov. James Blanchard of Michigan declared her voice “a natural resource” during a ceremony that marked her 25 years in show business
* On January 3, 1987, she became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
* On March 29, 1987 Aretha sang “America the Beautiful” at WrestleMania III
* In May 1987, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Musicology degree from the University of Detroit.
* In September, 1999, she was awarded The National Medal of Arts by President Clinton.
* In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked her #9 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time
. To give perspective to this honor, only the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, and Little Richard finished ahead of her on this list. Ray Charles finished at number ten, right behind Franklin.
* In 2005, she was awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.
* In 2005, she became the second woman (Madonna being the first, a founding member) to be inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame.
* On February 6, 2006, she performed, along with Aaron Neville, the Star-Spangled Banner at Super Bowl 40
* On May 13, 2006, she was presented with an honorary Doctor of Music degree by the Berklee College of Music.
* On April 1, 2007 Aretha sang “America the Beautiful” at Wrestlemania 23.
* On May 14, 2007, she was presented with an honorary Doctor of Music degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
* Is an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
* She is the youngest recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor.
* First black woman to appear on the cover of Time magazine.
* On February 8, 2008, Franklin was honored as MusiCares “Person of the Year”.
* On February 14, 2008, Franklin was given the Vanguard award at the NAACP Image awards.
* On May 4, 2008, Franklin was given the Key to the City of Memphis at the 2008 “Memphis in May International Music Festival” by Mayor Dr. Willie Herenton during her performance onstage
* On September 13, 2008, Franklin was ranked #19 on the Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists list by Billboard Magazine.
* November 2008, Franklin was named by The Rolling Stone magazine. as the #1 all time best singer of the rock era. She came in ahead of Ray Charles at No. 2, Elvis Presley at No. 3, Sam Cooke at No. 4 and John Lennon at No. 5, according to the magazine’s survey of 179 musicians, producers, Rolling Stone editors, and other music-industry insiders.
* On January 20, 2009, Franklin performed “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” during the inauguration ceremony of Barack Obama.
Franklin has won eighteen (18) Grammy Awards in total during her nearly half-century long career (she first charted in 1961), and holds the record for most Best Female R&B Vocal Performance awards with eleven to her name (including eight consecutive awards from 1968 to 1975 – the first eight awarded in that category).
Aretha Franklin’s 18 Grammy Award Wins
# Year Category Genre Title
1 1968 Best Rhythm & Blues Recording R&B Respect
2 1968 Best Female R&B Vocal Performance R&B Respect
3 1969 Best Female R&B Vocal Performance R&B Chain Of Fools
4 1970 Best Female R&B Vocal Performance R&B Share Your Love With Me
5 1971 Best Female R&B Vocal Performance R&B Don’t Play That Song For Me
6 1972 Best Female R&B Vocal Performance R&B Bridge Over Troubled Water
7 1973 Best Female R&B Vocal Performance R&B Young, Gifted and Black (album)
8 1973 Best Soul Gospel Performance Gospel Amazing Grace (album)
9 1974 Best Female R&B Vocal Performance R&B Master Of Eyes
10 1975 Best Female R&B Vocal Performance R&B Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing
11 1982 Best Female R&B Vocal Performance R&B Hold On…I’m Comin’ (album track)
12 1986 Best Female R&B Vocal Performance R&B Freeway Of Love
13 1988 Best Female R&B Vocal Performance R&B Aretha (album)
14 1988 Best R&B Performance – Duo Or Group with Vocals R&B I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) (with George Michael)
15 1989 Best Soul Gospel Performance – Female Gospel One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism (album)
* 1991 Living Legend Award Special
* 1994 Lifetime Achievement Award Special
16 2004 Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance R&B Wonderful
17 2006 Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance R&B A House Is Not A Home
18 2008 Best Gospel-Soul Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group Gospel Never Gonna Break My Faith (with Mary J. Blige)
*According to NARAS Rules: ‘Special’ Grammy Awards (such as Lifetime Achievement) are not counted in a performer’s tally.
Further information: Aretha Franklin discography
* 1967 I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You
* 1967 Aretha Arrives
* 1968 Lady Soul
* 1968 Aretha Now
* 1968 Aretha in Paris
* 1969 Soul ’69
* 1969 Aretha’s Gold
* 1970 This Girl’s In Love With You
* 1970 Spirit In The Dark
* 1971 Live At Fillmore West
* 1971 Aretha’s Greatest Hits
* 1972 Young, Gifted And Black
* 1972 Amazing Grace
* 1973 Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky)
* 1974 Let Me In Your Life
* 1974 With Everything I Feel In Me
* 1975 You
* 1976 Sparkle
* 1976 Ten Years Of Gold
* 1977 Sweet Passion
* 1978 Almighty Fire
* 1979 La Diva
* 1980 Aretha
* 1981 Love All The Hurt Away
* 1982 Jump To It
* 1983 Get It Right
* 1985 Who’s Zoomin’ Who?
* 1986 Aretha
* 1987 One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism
* 1989 Through The Storm
* 1991 What You See Is What You Sweat
* 1994 Greatest Hits 1980-1994
* 1998 A Rose Is Still A Rose
* 2001 Aretha’s Best *
* 2003 So Damn Happy
* 2007 Jewels In The Crown: All-Star Duets With The Queen
* 2008 This Christmas
(*This is Franklin’s only US release to included both her Atlantic and Arista hits)
Top 10 US Hot 100 singles
Year Title Peak
1967 “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” 9
1967 “Respect” 1
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 “Think” 7
1968 “The House That Jack Built” 6
1968 “I Say a Little Prayer” 10
1971 “Bridge Over Troubled Water” / “Brand New Me” 6
1971 “Spanish Harlem” 2
1971 “Rock Steady” 9
1972 “Day Dreaming” 5
1973 “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” 3
1985 “Freeway of Love” 3
1985 “Who’s Zoomin’ Who” 7
1987 “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” (with George Michael) 1
* The Blues Brothers (1980)
* Motown 40: The Music Is Forever (1998) (ABC-TV documentary)
* Blues Brothers 2000 (1998)
* DIVAS LIVE (1998)
* Immaculate Funk (2000) (documentary)
* Rhythm, Love and Soul (2002)
* Tom Dowd & the Language of Music (2003) (documentary)
* Singing in the Shadow: The Children of Rock Royalty (2003) (documentary)
* From The Heart / The Four Tops 50th Anniversary and Celebration (2004)
* Atlantic Records: The House that Ahmet Built (2007) (documentary)
TV Talkshow Music Appearances
* Rolonda Watts (Rolonda Show)
* Oprah Winfrey (Oprah’s 40 Birthday, with Patti Labelle & Gladys Knight)