Aretha Franklin, the undisputed Queen of Soul, died Thursday at her Detroit home, the Associated Press reports, surrounded by family and friends. She had been battling various undisclosed illnesses for years, and, in recent weeks, was receiving hospice care. Franklin was 76.
As news of her declining health spread over the past few days, visitors including Stevie Wonder and the Rev. Jesse Jackson reportedly paid their respects at her bedside. Beyoncé and Jay-Z dedicated their Monday concert in the Motor City to Franklin, declaring the iconic singer. “We love you,” Beyoncé said, adding a word of thanks for “the beautiful music.”
Over the course of her nearly seven-decade career, Franklin established herself as one of the most important artists in music history, winning 18 Grammy Awards, selling more than 75 million records worldwide, becoming the first female performer to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and recording 112 charted singles on Billboard, thus setting the record for the most charted female artist in the trade magazine’s history.
Franklin’s other accolades during her lifetime included three American Music Awards, two MTV Video Music Awards, three NAACP Image Awards, one Golden Globe, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a Grammy Legend Award and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, a Kennedy Center Honor, being named 2008’s MusiCares Person of the Year, and honorary degrees from Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Brown, and the Berklee College of Music. She performed at Martin Luther King’s memorial service and at the inaugurations of three presidents: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.
In 2010, Franklin’s commanding mezzo-soprano voice earned her the No. 1 spot on Rolling Stone’s list of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time.” Contributing to that issue, admirer Mary J. Blige wrote, “You know a force from heaven. You know something that God made. And Aretha is a gift from God. When it comes to expressing yourself through song, there is no one who can touch her. She is the reason why women want to sing. Aretha has everything — the power, the technique. She is honest with everything she says.”
Franklin was born in Memphis on March 25, 1942. Her family moved to Detroit when she was 5 years old, and her mother, Barbara, died shortly before Franklin’s 10th birthday. Her father, Clarence LaVaughn “C. L.” Franklin, was a famous preacher at Detroit’s New Bethel Baptist Church, and his home was subsequently frequented by celebrity guests like Martin Luther King Jr., Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, and Mahalia Jackson, the latter of whom pitched in helping to raise Aretha and her siblings after Barbara’s death. It was around that time that a young Franklin began singing solos at New Bethel.
Franklin was a mother of two by the time she was 14 years old, giving birth to her first son, Clarence, when she was 12, and welcoming a second son, Edward, two years later. (She gave birth to two other sons, Teddy Richards and Kecalf Cunningham, in 1964 and 1970.) However, young motherhood did not stop Franklin from launching her professional career as a gospel singer at age 14. Managed by her father and signed to J.V.B. Records, she released her first album, Songs of Faith, in 1956. When she turned 18, she shifted to secular music, recording for Columbia Records and charting a few singles on the R&B and pop charts, but major mainstream success mostly eluded her.
It was only after Franklin signed to Atlantic Records in 1967 that she had her big breakthrough. In February of that year, Atlantic released “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” recorded at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala.; the song became her first top 10 Billboard hit. Two months later, she followed up with her famous cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect,” which went to No. 1 on both the R&B and pop charts. Her first album for Atlantic, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, soon went gold.
She capped her amazing 1967 run with the September release of another signature song, her cover of Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” which became another Top 10 hit. By the following year, Franklin had won her first two Grammys and graced the cover of Time magazine.
Source: Yahoo News