The Queen of Soul
The undisputed ‘Queen of Soul’ and ‘Living Legend’ Aretha Louise Franklin is an exceptional singer, songwriter and pianist. Although renowned for her Soul recordings, she is also proficient at Jazz, Blues, R&B and Gospel music. Rolling Stone magazine ranked her number one on its list of ‘The Greatest Singers of All Time’. Aretha is one of the most honoured artists by the Grammy Awards with 18 competitive Grammys to date and two honorary Grammys. She has scored a total of 20 number one singles, one of which is the global ladies’ anthem ‘Respect’ (1967). Franklin has the most million-selling singles of any female artist with 14. Between 1967 and 1982, she had 10 number one R&B albums - more than any other female artist. In 1987, Franklin became the first female artist to be inducted into the ‘Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’. Aretha was the only featured singer at the 2009 Presidential Inauguration for Barack Obama.
Aretha was born on March 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee to Reverend CL Franklin, a famous Baptist minister and Barbara Siggers Franklin, a singer and pianist. The couple had four other children, Erma, Cecil, Carolyn and Vaughn. Aretha was raised by her paternal grandmother, Rachel Franklin known as ‘Big Momma’. She was a self-taught piano prodigy and her extraordinary vocal gifts were manifest by the time she entered her teens. At the tender age of 14, she recorded her first album ‘Songs of Faith’ (1956) for JVB/Battle Records where, her father recorded his Sermons and Gospel vocal recordings. Her earliest influences included Clara Ward and Mahalia Jackson. Aretha noted in her autobiography that her early Gospel singing was patterned after Albertina Walker’s Caravans as she worked under the direction of Gospel legend and Franklin family friend James Cleveland.
Early motherhood derailed Aretha’s Gospel career. When she returned to singing, she decided to secure herself a deal as a Pop artist and signed to Columbia Records in 1960. Her recordings during that time reflected a Jazz influence and moved away from her Gospel roots. At the end of 1966, she signed with Atlantic Records. Years later she recalled, “they made me sit down on the piano and the hits came”.