Aretha Franklin: Soul, Pride & Longevity

Aretha Franklin was born in Memphis, TN on March 25, 1942. By the time she was 5 years old, her family moved to Detroit, MI where her father C.L. Franklin, became a minister at New Bethel Baptist Church. Not only was he a reverend but also a respected gospel musician in his own right. His career exposed his daughter to many civil rights leaders as well as some of the early architects of soul music like Smokey Robinson, Sam Cooke, Clara Ward & Bobby “Blue” Bland.

Unfortunately, the beginning stages of Aretha’s life was marked by tragic highs & lows. By 1948, her parents were separated & headed for a divorce. Her mother moved to Buffalo, NY while she remained with her father in Detroit, MI. However, Aretha remained close with her mother, taking trips to New York during the summer breaks as well as her mother coming back to Detroit to visit.

In 1952, Aretha’s mother died right before her tenth birthday. By the time Aretha was 14 years old she already had two children which her grandmother Rachel & sister Erma took turns raising when Aretha’s career began to take off. Her first album, The Gospel Sound Of Aretha Franklin was recorded when she was 14 years old.

At that time she was still singing in her father’s church as well as performing on tour with his gospel group. In 1960, she signed a record deal with Columbia records. The relationship was short lived due to the fact that their vision for Aretha was more geared towards pop success & not the soul music she wanted to create. After signing to Atlantic records in 1966 & receiving the type of creative control that wasn’t granted to her at Columbia records, she began to revolutionize soul music and create a lane of her own.

In 1968, her music was considered a symbol of black pride. Songs like “Respect”, “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman”, “Young, Gifted, and Black,” & “Think”  all became anthems for the growing unrest in the black community. The soulful sounds of her voice became a backdrop to the racial divide African Americans had to deal with in this country. Even though her career began to decline in the late 70’s she remained active in any way she could.

From performing on songs with Laurin Hill to singing at President Obama’s Inauguration, Aretha continued to keep a special place in our hearts. In 1987, she was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. At the time, she had the most Top 40 singles by a female performer and over her career, she accumulated seventeen grammy’s and had twenty number 1 R&B Hits. Her 1967 album  I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You” is considered the greatest soul album of all time. Aretha Franklin Died in Detroit, MI of pancreatic cancer she was 76 years old.


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