The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, has lost her eight-year battle with cancer at the age of 76.
Aretha Franklin was born in Memphis in 1942. Her father was preacher C.L. Franklin. He relocated the family to Buffalo, New York when Aretha was two before settling in Detroit when she was five.
Aretha learned to sing in her father’s church. By the time she was 14, he managed her and started to design Gospel tours across various churches. In 1960, at age 18, Aretha decided on a path of pop music and signed with Columbia Records. Her first album was ‘Aretha: With The Ray Bryant Combo’. It gave her her first hit song ‘Won’t Be Long’.
Aretha Franklin left Columbia in 1966 and signed with Atlantic Records where the legend began. In January 1967 she recorded her first song for Atlantic at Muscle Shoals in Alabama. It was ‘I Never Loved A Man (The way I Love You)’.
1967 was Aretha’s year. ‘I Never Loved A Man (The way I Love You)’ reached no 9 on the Billboard chart. The song’s b-side ‘Do Right Woman, Do Right Man’ reached no 37 and then her signature song ‘Respect’ was released and became her first no 1 hit.
Aretha also performed ‘Think’ in a very sassy scene from the 1980 ‘The Blues Brothers’ movie.
Aretha had two more hits in 1967, ‘Baby I Love You’ and her interpretation of the Carole King classic ‘(You Make Me Feel Like A) Woman’. In 2015, she brought the President of the United States Barack Obama to tears performing the song to honour Carole King.
By June 1968, Aretha was featured on the cover of Time Magazine.
The legend of Aretha Franklin grew in the 80s. In 1980 she left Atlantic and signed with Clive Davis’ Arista Records. Her fifth Arista album ‘Who’s Zoomin’ Who’ gave the Queen of Soul a modern day make-over and more hits with ‘Freeway of Love’ and the title track.
A year later, Aretha had a hit with George Michael ‘ I Knew You Were Waiting For Me’ and with Eurythmics ‘Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves’.
One of Aretha’s more recent appearances was with David Letterman where she covered Adele’s ‘Rolling In The Deep’.
Aretha Franklin was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. Earlier this year she cancelled a series of performances because of ill health. Her last performance was on 7 November, 2017 for the 25th anniversary of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
Aretha had four children. Her first son Clarence was born after she became pregnant at age 12. Her second child Edward was born when she was 14. In 1961, at age 19, she married Ted White and had a third child Ted White Jr in 1964. He is known as Teddy Richards and played guitar for his mother’s live concerts. Her youngest son Kecalf Cunningham was born in 1970 to her then road manager Ken Cunningham.
Aretha divorced Ted in 1969 and married Glynn Turman in 1978. They divorced in 1984.
Aretha Franklin received an Honorary Degree from Harvard in 2014. She has doctorates from Princeton University (2012), Yale University (2010), Brown University (2009), Berklee College of Music (2006), New England Conservatory of Music (1995) and University of Michigan (1987). She has also been awarded honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by Wayne State University (1990) and Doctor of Law by Bethune-Cookman College (1975).
Aretha is also a 17 time Grammy Award winner and additionally has been awarded the Legend Award (1991), Lifetime Achievement Award (1994) and MusiCares Person of the Year award (2008) by the Grammy Foundation.