Aretha Louise Franklin (born March 25, 1942) is an American musician, singer, songwriter, and pianist. In a recording career that has spanned over half a century, Franklin's repertoire has included gospel, jazz, blues, R&B, pop, rock and funk.
Franklin is known as one of the most important popularizers of the soul music genre and is referred to as the Queen of Soul, a title she was given early in her career. Franklin, the daughter of prominent Baptist minister and activist C. L. Franklin, began her singing career singing in her father's church at the age of ten and started recording four years later. After several years in the gospel circuit and with her father's blessing, she formed a secular pop music career at the age of eighteen, signing with Columbia Records, where she was branded by its CEO John Hammond as his most important act since Billie Holiday. Franklin's Columbia period wasn't as successful as hoped and in late 1966, Franklin switched over to Atlantic Records, where she began recording a string of popular hits including "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)", "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman", "Think", "Chain of Fools" and what later became her signature song, "Respect".
After she broke her leg; a brief lull in 1969, Franklin continued to record a string of popular singles throughout the early 1970s, reaching her peak as an albums artist with 1970's Spirit in the Dark, 1971's Young, Gifted & Black and the 1972 gospel record, Amazing Grace, which became the best-selling pure gospel album of all time. Franklin's success in Atlantic peaked after the release of the singles, "Until You Come Back to Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)", "I'm in Love" and "Giving Him Something He Can Feel" and the 1976 soundtrack to the movie, Sparkle and Franklin left the label in 1980 to sign with Clive Davis' Arista Records label where she switched over from soul and funk music to a more conservative urban adult contemporary sound in the albums, Aretha and Love All the Hurt Away, before regaining commercial success with the 1982 Gold album, Jump to It, produced by R&B hitmaker Luther Vandross.
In 1984, Franklin added modern day pop rock and dance elements to her sound, which was integral to the success of her 1985 Platinum album, Who's Zoomin' Who?, which spawned the hits "Freeway of Love", "Who's Zoomin' Who" and the Eurythmics members Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart featured "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves". The 1986 release, Aretha, featured her seventeenth Top 10 single - a #1 duet with George Michael entitled "I Knew You Were Waiting for Me". Afterwards Aretha did not return to the Gold standard until the release of 1998's A Rose Is Still a Rose, which incorporated modern day contemporary R&B and which the title track returned Franklin to the top 40 of the pop charts.
Rolling Stone magazine ranked her atop its "100 Greatest Singers of All Time" list, as well as the ninth greatest artist of all time. She has won a total of 20 career Grammy Awards, including two honorary Grammys, and she is one of the best-selling female artists of all time, having sold over 75 million records worldwide. In 1987, Franklin became the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On August 14, 2012, Franklin was inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
Early life (1942-1959) edit:
Aretha Franklin was the fourth of five children born to Barbara Siggers and Clarence LaVaughn Franklin. Franklin's father, who went by "C. L." Franklin, was a rising itinerant preacher who had moved to Memphis from Shelby, Mississippi. Within two years after Aretha's birth, Franklin's family moved to Buffalo, New York. The initial reasoning behind the move was because Franklin's father sought to find better opportunities and reach a bigger church audience as compared to the South. In early 1946, prior to Franklin's fourth birthday, the family moved to Detroit, Michigan, where they eventually settled. There, that year, Franklin built his own church, the New Bethel Baptist Church. By the time Franklin was six, her parents had separated after a volatile and contentious marriage, with Barbara moving with her son from a previous affair, Vaughn, back to Buffalo, where she found work as a nurse. Franklin will recall later that during the summertime, she and the rest of her siblings visited their mother at her Buffalo home. Franklin's mother suddenly died when she was ten. While she and her siblings attended her funeral, it was said her father either couldn't or refused to attend.
Following her mother's burial, ten-year-old Franklin began singing solo numbers at her father's church. By this time, her father had attained local celebrity status as a prominent minister and was often nicknamed "the man with the million-dollar voice" due to his fiery deliveries during sermons and gospel performances where he led the choir. As a result, many of Detroit's famous notable celebrities and prominent public figures and other celebrities outside Detroit visited Franklin's house. Among the figures that visited and would later influence her musical and vocal styles included gospel musicians Mahalia Jackson, Clara Ward, James Cleveland and early Caravans members Albertina Walker and Inez Andrews, while other musicians such as Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson also visited. Fellow preacher Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr also became a prominent visitor. Franklin began playing the piano at a young age and knew much of how to play by ear. Franklin recalled, that when it came to musical taste, her father wasn't strict, allowing Franklin to listen to a variety of genres including blues, jazz and R&B. By the mid-fifties, Franklin's father was recording for JVB Records, becoming one of the few preachers to record albums full of sermons, which also included musical performances by the minister alongside his choir. In 1956, Franklin started performing professionally traveling with her father to perform on the itinerant circuit. That same year, Franklin's father helped sign her to JVB Records, recording her first album, Songs of Faith and released her first single, "Never Grow Old", which would later be reissued by Checker Records several times. Franklin's gospel career lasted until she reached eighteen, as she had desired to record secular music, a move that was always frowned upon in the ministry.
However, Franklin's father gave Aretha his blessing and became her manager, helping her to polish her look for pop audiences and record a two-song demo that eventually landed in several recording companies in New York including RCA and Columbia. Prior to this, local Detroit recording executive Berry Gordy had opted to sign both Aretha and sister Erma to his rising label, Motown Records. However, C. L., acting as the girls' manager, turned the offer down because he felt the label was too local to promote the girl's talents. A bidding war between RCA and Columbia ended when Franklin settled to work at Columbia.
Music career edit:
Initial success (1960-1966) edit:
Upon hearing her demos, legendary Columbia A&R man John Hammond remarked that he felt he had heard the greatest singer since Billie Holiday, whom Hammond had also discovered when she herself was eighteen, and agreed to work with her to Columbia despite Sam Cooke's offer to have Franklin sign with his RCA label. In September 1960, Columbia issued Franklin's first single, "Today I Sung the Blues", which became her first charted success, reaching number 10 on Billboard's R&B chart. In January 1961, Columbia issued her debut album Aretha. Many of Franklin's Columbia recordings diversified from standards, vocal jazz, blues, doo-wop and rhythm and blues. Following the release of her first Columbia album, Franklin scored a second R&B hit with "Won't Be Long", which peaked at number seven and also became Franklin's first charted single on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 76. Later in 1961, Franklin had her first double-sided hit with the songs "Operation Heartbreak" and "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody". "Operation Heartbreak" was a typical rhythm and blues ballad that showcased Franklin's gospel-pop vocals while her rendition of "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby" was produced in a hip gospel-influenced R&B melody. While "Operation" peaked at number six on the R&B chart, "Rock-a-Bye" became her first top forty single, peaking at #37 on the chart, and also reaching the top 40 in Australia and Canada. By the end of 1961, Franklin was listed as one of the Top Ten jazz singers in Downbeat magazine, also making the list for 1962 and 1963.
In 1962, Columbia issued two more Franklin albums, The Electrifying Aretha Franklin and The Tender, the Moving, the Swinging Aretha Franklin, the latter album charting at number 69 on the Billboard Pop LPs chart. Throughout 1962, Franklin released six singles, of which five reached the Hot 100. None of the songs reached the R&B chart as Columbia had figured Franklin would find success as a jazz vocalist. However, none of the songs released were successful and quickly dropped out of the charts. None of Franklin's 1963 songs for Columbia reached the Hot 100 and by the end of the year, Columbia dropped the push to make Franklin their answer to Dinah Washington, a singer Franklin had used as a vocal and musical model for much of her early Columbia releases. Hammond later admitted that he felt Columbia didn't understand Franklin's gospel background and failed to bring that aspect further in her Columbia recordings. In 1964, Franklin recorded a critically revered tribute album in honor of Washington following Washington's 1963 death titled Unforgettable: A Tribute to Dinah Washington. Though she still occasionally recorded jazz material, by 1964, Columbia, influenced by the success from independent labels such as Motown and Scepter and artists such as Dionne Warwick and Martha and the Vandellas decided to push Franklin in a modern pop-soul direction, releasing the pop ballad, "Runnin' Out of Fools", which returned Franklin to the charts in early 1965, peaking at number 57 on the Hot 100 and reaching 30 on the R&B chart, with the album of the same name reaching 84 on the Pop LPs chart and number 9 on the R&B LPs chart. In 1965, she had a top 20 R&B single with "One Step Ahead" and reached the Easy Listening charts with the pop ballads, "You Made Me Love You" and "(No, No) I'm Losing You". During this period, Franklin appeared on teen pop shows such as Shindig!, Shivaree and Hollywood A Go-Go.
Though Franklin wasn't yet a constant hit maker, Franklin's recordings during this period as well as her performances garnered her critical praise. Sometime in 1964, Franklin was crowned by Chicago radio deejay Pervis Spann as "the new queen of soul" during a performance in Chicago. This title would become more bestowed upon her in more than just a couple years. In 1966, she released her final charted single for Columbia, "Cry Like a Baby", which reached number 27 on the R&B chart, becoming one of the first charted successes for the songwriting team Ashford & Simpson. That year, Franklin's husband of five years, Ted White, took her father C. L.'s place as her manager and decided that Franklin should no longer record for Columbia. Under White's advice, Franklin signed with top R&B label Atlantic Records, who signed her in January 1967. Following her success with Atlantic, Columbia would issue albums and leftover recordings of Franklin's for several years to capitalize on the Franklin market.
Success and acclaim (1967-1979) edit:
Shortly after signing to Atlantic, Atlantic's co-CEO and producer Jerry Wexler took Franklin and her husband to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to record Franklin's first recordings for Atlantic at FAME Studios where Franklin recorded with the respected instrumental band, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. There, Franklin recorded "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)". Shortly after the song had finished recording, the session ended abruptly after Franklin's husband and an engineer had a row after the engineer allegedly confronted White over his rough handling over Franklin. The row resulted in White and Franklin returning to New York where it took weeks to reach contact. Figuring that it would be easier to record at Atlantic's New York studios, Wexler sent some of the Muscle Shoals musicians to New York. After finally locating Franklin, she entered the studio to record the b-side to "I Never Loved a Man", "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man". "I Never Loved a Man" was released in February 1967 and became Franklin's first top 40 hit single, reaching number nine on the Hot 100 and became her first number-one single on the R&B charts. "Do Right Woman" also gained notable airplay eventually landing at number 37 on the R&B chart, giving Franklin her first double-sided hit single in six years.
The following April, Atlantic issued Franklin's second single, "Respect", a song composed and initially recorded by Otis Redding. Re-arranged by Arif Mardin and Franklin, the song was delivered from a female's point of view and produced a gospel-styled version with Franklin using her gospel vocals over the lyrics. The call and response vocals were arranged by Aretha and her little sister Carolyn, who sung in the background on the song alongside her older sister Erma. Franklin added in the ad-lib, "R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me, R-E-S-P-E-C-T, take care, TCB". In response her sisters shouted "sock it to me" repeatedly. The song became Franklin's first number-one single on the pop charts and her second number-one single on the R&B charts and became a worldwide hit, peaking at number 10 in the UK. The success of Franklin's first three singles pushed her Atlantic debut album, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, into the top ten becoming her first album to sell over a million copies, earning a gold plaque. The album featured another future Franklin standard, "Dr. Feelgood (Love is a Serious Business)". Later in 1967, Franklin issued the album, Aretha Arrives, which included another top ten single, "Baby I Love You", her third of the year. That summer, Atlantic issued a fourth single, "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman", written for Franklin by songwriting team Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Before the year was over, Atlantic issued a fifth single, the Don Covay-composed "Chain of Fools", which became her fifth consecutive top ten pop single.
In 1968, Franklin earned her first two Grammy Awards for "Respect". Eventually, Franklin would win eight consecutive Grammys under the category of Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. Franklin's hit streak continued in 1968. In that year alone, Atlantic issued nine singles, all of which found success in either the United States or the United Kingdom. Among her most notable hits that year included "(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone", its b-side "Ain't No Way", "Think", "The House that Jack Built" and a soulful rendition of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "I Say a Little Prayer", the latter reaching the top five of the UK and reaching the top ten in several other European countries and Australia. The success extended to her albums: Lady Soul peaked at number two on the pop albums chart and topped the R&B and jazz albums charts, with three of its singles reaching the top ten of the pop chart, then a record. Aretha Now, her second 1968 album, reached number three. Both Lady Soul and Aretha Now each sold a million copies becoming the next two albums to reach gold status in the United States. Franklin began touring outside the United States that year. A successful performance at Paris' Olympia Theater led to the release of Aretha in Paris. Franklin also performed successfully in the UK, Switzerland and the Netherlands. In 1968, she became the second black notable celebrity after Martin Luther King, Jr. to make the cover of Time magazine. However, the article included stories of Franklin's childhood and personal life that led Franklin to not discuss her personal life to the media. Franklin's marriage to Ted White also suffered that year and at the end of the year, they announced a legal separation.
In the meantime, Franklin's recordings also touched audiences during times of social change as songs like "Respect" and "Think" were used as clarion calls to the civil rights, feminist and black liberation movements of the late 1960s. As a result Franklin was often referred as "Soul Sister #1" and "Lady Soul" alongside the now-recognized title of "Queen of Soul". Franklin struggled with personal issues in 1969, which included finalizing her divorce from Ted White, who also left as her manager. Franklin's brother Cecil replaced him as her manager from then on. Despite this, Franklin had a number-one single with her cover of "Share Your Love with Me" at the end of that year. In early 1970, Franklin scored another number-one R&B hit with her composition, "Call Me", her first composition without interference from Ted White, whom Franklin alleged bullied his way to earn composition credit rights to some of Franklin's hits such as "Sweet Sweet Baby" and "Think". During this period of personal change, Franklin reconnected with her spiritual roots as well as her African roots, adopting an Afrocentric look and replaced her trademark bouffant hairdos with "The Natural", or the Afro. Franklin also began incorporating rock songs into her repertoire, having success with covers of "The Weight", "Eleanor Rigby" and "Let It Be", releasing her version of the latter before the Beatles issued theirs. That year, Atlantic issued two Franklin albums, This Girl's in Love with You and Spirit in the Dark, which recalled Franklin's sound going through a transitional period, with the latter album incorporating even more gospel music, with the title track recorded with the Dixie Flyers as a notable example. Franklin had another international hit in 1970 with her cover of "Don't Play That Song (You Lied)". Franklin had a further hit that year with her rendition of Elton John's "Border Song" and the ballad "You and Me" by the end of the year. Franklin had several more hit singles in 1971 including the Simon & Garfunkel ballad, "Bridge Over Troubled Water", a cover of "Spanish Harlem" and "Rock Steady", with all three reaching Top 10 and "Spanish Harlem" in particular peaking at number two on the Hot 100. That year, Franklin released the live album, Live at Fillmore West, where she became one of the few black artists to perform at the fabled venue. Embracing funk, gospel and pop, Franklin's next Gold-certified album was 1972's Young, Gifted and Black, which included the Top 10 pop hit, "Day Dreaming". That same year, Franklin recorded the live gospel album, Amazing Grace, backed by James Cleveland and his choir. The double album became Aretha biggest selling career album and eventually sold over two million copies, becoming the best-selling pure gospel album of all time.
By 1973, Franklin made plans to work on a jazz album with Quincy Jones at the helm instead of Jerry Wexler. Midway through, however, Jones and Franklin decided to mix the album with several experimental pop material mixing it with Franklin's own R&B songs. The result was Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky). Despite the success of the Carolyn Franklin-penned ballad, "Angel", the album failed to go gold as fans and critics then struggled with the album's material. Wexler returned as producer of Franklin's next album, Let Me in Your Life, which included her hit renditions of Stevie Wonder's "Until You Come Back to Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)" and Bobby Womack's "I'm in Love". The album nearly sold a million copies and landed Franklin a Grammy for her slower rendition of the Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell hit, "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing". During this period, Franklin had ditched her Afrocentric look for a more glamorous look influenced by a dramatic weight loss. Franklin's follow-up to Let Me in Your Life, 1974's With Everything I Feel in Me failed to become successful. The following year, the album, You found similar failure. That year, Franklin and Atlantic as a whole suffered a loss when Jerry Wexler moved from Atlantic to Warner Bros. Records. With the success of other Atlantic artists such as The Spinners and Roberta Flack, Franklin was no longer Atlantic's top-selling artist. Then in 1976, her eight-year Grammy-winning streak ended when Natalie Cole won the Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for the song "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)". Franklin's decline subsided somewhat with the release of the Curtis Mayfield-produced soundtrack of the film, Sparkle and the hit single, "Giving Him Something He Can Feel", which became Franklin's sixteenth number-one hit on the R&B charts. Sparkle eventually sold half a million copies resulting in the album being certified gold. The same year, the RIAA introduced the platinum award as a result of an album selling over a million US copies. Though several of Aretha's Atlantic albums may have sold a million copies, none of them have been updated to Platinum status. In 1977, Franklin had her seventeenth number-one R&B hit with "Break It to Me Gently" but the song's parent album, Sweet Passion, failed commercially and artistically. A second album with Mayfield, the troubling Almighty Fire (1978), also bombed, and a foray into disco with Van McCoy on the album, La Diva, stalled at #146 and produced dismal sales after its release in late 1979. Troubled by the news of her father's shooting at his Detroit home during this time and other issues, Aretha decided not to renew her Atlantic contract after twelve years with the company.
Return to prominence (1980-2002) edit:
In 1980, Franklin won acclaim for her brief role as a soul food cook and wife of Matt "Guitar" Murphy in the film adaptation of The Blues Brothers. Seeking a fresh charge in her musical career, Franklin opted for a contract with Clive Davis' Arista Records, the reasoning being that she was seeking the same type of partnership she had enjoyed while working with Jerry Wexler in Atlantic. Davis agreed and signed Franklin to Arista. Later that year, Arista issued Aretha, which included her first Hot 100 charted single in three years with "United Together", peaking at number 57 on the chart, while also peaking at number three on the R&B chart, which was also her first top five R&B hit in three years. The album also included a cover of The Doobie Brothers' "What a Fool Believes". The following year featured the album, Love All the Hurt Away. The title version, an adult contemporary duet with George Benson, became her first top 50 single on the Hot 100 in several years peaking at number 46. The album was notable for Franklin's gospel rendition of Diana Ross' "It's My Turn" and her Grammy-winning cover of Sam and Dave's "Hold On, I'm Comin'".
Franklin's third Arista album, Jump to It, was produced by Luther Vandross and was released in 1982, helping Franklin to earn her first Gold-certified album since 1976, as well as her first top 40 single in five years with the title track, which also became her first #1 R&B hit in five years. Following the nascent failure of 1983's Get It Right, Franklin laid low, avoiding publicity for a year and a half as she coped with the death of her father and surviving a plane accident that gave her agoraphobia. Returning to the recording studios in late 1984, Franklin was hooked with producer Narada Michael Walden, who helped to produce Franklin's first ever million-selling album with Who's Zoomin' Who?, released in 1985. Inspiration for the album's making was due to Franklin listening to songs on the radio and, liking what she heard, opted for a "younger sound". Mixing Franklin's brand of R&B and soul with elements of modern dance and modern rock, the album returned Franklin to the top ten of the pop charts, with "Freeway of Love" becoming her biggest hit in years reaching number three on the pop chart and reaching number one on the R&B chart, making it her 20th and final number-one single on that chart. The album's follow-up hits included "Who's Zoomin' Who", "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves", which featured Annie Lennox, and "Another Night". The music videos for "Freeway of Love", "Sisters" and "Another Night" gave Franklin coverage on music video channels exposing her to a brand new audience. Who's Zoomin' Who later became Franklin's first platinum album, selling well over a million copies.
Franklin followed up that success with a nearly platinum-selling 1986 album, also titled Aretha, including her rendition of the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash", "Jimmy Lee" and her first number-one pop hit in 20 years with the George Michael duet single, "I Knew You Were Waiting for Me", which became her first and only number-one single in both the UK and Australia. To keep up the workload, Franklin performed a concert TV special for Showtime and also contributed her voice to several TV networks including theme songs for the shows "A Different World" and "Together". In 1987, Franklin scored a number-one gospel album with One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, following that up with the 1989 pop album, Through the Storm. Due to the changes in R&B music, the album failed to go gold despite her hit duet with Elton John also titled "Through the Storm". Arista released a much-ballyhooed duet between Franklin and Whitney Houston titled "It Isn't, It Wasn't, It Ain't Never Gonna Be" which only became a modest success. During this period, Franklin's life faced more tragedy as she lost her manager brother Cecil and sister Carolyn to cancer. Franklin returned briefly to the pop charts in 1991 with the ballad, "Ever Changing Times" which included Michael McDonald singing background vocals. The song was featured on Franklin's poorly received album, What You See Is What You Sweat. Before releasing that album, Franklin quit chain smoking, which slowly resulted in Franklin's voice regaining some of the power it had presumably lost. Franklin contributed to the Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit soundtrack, scoring a dance hit with "A Deeper Love", which became a UK top ten hit. That song and two other newer recordings, "Honey" and "Willing to Forgive" was featured on Franklin's Arista compilation album, Greatest Hits: 1980-1994. Both of the latter songs charted with "Willing to Forgive" becoming Franklin's first top 40 hit in five years. Franklin scored a modest R&B hit with the ballad "It Hurts Like Hell" off the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack in 1996. A year and a half later, Franklin reached the top 40 again with the album, A Rose Is Still a Rose and its title track, written and produced by Lauryn Hill. The title track peaked at number 26 on the Hot 100 remarkably 37 years after Franklin reached the pop chart. That year, Franklin's reputation was further raised by a performance at the 1998 Grammy Awards where she performed an impressive rendition of the opera ballad, "Nessun Dorma", ending in a standing ovation.
In 1999, Franklin issued her memoirs, Aretha: From These Roots. A year later, Franklin performed on the 25th anniversary showcase for Arista Records and a year after that performed in her own tribute show on VH1' Divas special, nearly three years after delivering a show-stopping performance in the first benefit show of the special. During this period, she also contributed vocals on modern R&B albums by K-Ci & JoJo and Mary J. Blige among others.
Later work (2003-present) edit:
In 2003, Franklin released her first album in five years with So Damn Happy. The album included the Grammy-winning single "Wonderful". Following its release, Franklin decided to leave Arista Records, forming Aretha Records the following year and working on her album, Aretha: A Woman Falling Out of Love. In 2007, Franklin contributed to the duets compilation, Jewels in the Crown: All-Star Duets with the Queen, which featured a minor R&B hit single with the song "Put You Up on Game", which featured singer Fantasia. That same year, Franklin released her first holiday album, This Christmas, Aretha, which was initially released as an exclusive on Borders Group and was re-released on the DMI Records label in 2008, since selling 142,864 copies alone in the United States. (citation needed)
In 2008, Franklin won her 18th career Grammy Award in the gospel category for the song, "Never Break My Faith", which was her second duet with Mary J. Blige. A year later, Franklin made international headlines for performing at the inauguration for then newly elected President Barack Obama performing the song "My Country 'Tis of Thee", with her attire, including her church hat, becoming a popular item online and the subject of several internet memes. That same year, Franklin received an honorary music degree from Yale. By 2010, Franklin announced that she had sold her rights to movie producers to produce a biopic on her in, which would be loosely based on Aretha's 1999 memoirs, Aretha: From These Roots. Franklin had initially planned for Halle Berry to play her in the featured role but Berry turned down her offer in January 2011. Aretha has since picked singer Audra McDonald to play her.
In May 2011, commemorating her 50th anniversary year since the release of her first non-gospel recording, Franklin issued her fortieth studio release, A Woman Falling Out of Love, exclusively through WalMart off her label, Aretha Records. The album peaked at number 54 and only stayed on the Billboard charts for only two weeks, selling around 25,000 copies in the States. Franklin recorded two duets with longtime friend, Ronald Isley of The Isley Brothers, recording "The Way We Were" on Aretha's album, while recording "You've Got a Friend" on Isley's record, Mr. I. Later in September, Franklin contributed duet vocals to the Tony Bennett rendition of "How Do You Keep the Music Playing" on his chart-topping Duets II album.
Aretha is reportedly working on a new album with producers Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Danja at the helm of the project.
Personal life edit:
Aretha, by her own admission grew up fast as a child and discovered boys by the age of thirteen, getting pregnant just three months after becoming a teenager. A relationship with one boy led to the birth of her first son, Clarence, named after her father, on March 28, 1956, just three days after Franklin turned 14. In January 1957, Franklin had another son, Edward, with another boy. She never identified by name the father of either child. Her grandmother, Rachel, raised the boys while Franklin pursued her singing career. Rachel lived in a guest house behind C.L. Franklin's LaSalle Street home. (The Franklin family moved from their home on Boston Street in Detroit's North End section to LaSalle Street during the late 1950s.) Franklin had a third son, Ted White, Jr. (known professionally as Teddy Richards), with her manager and former family friend Ted White, Sr., born in 1964. Teddy is the musical director and guitarist of his mother's touring band. A relationship with road manager Ken Cunningham produced a fourth son, Kecalf, who was named after the first initials of his parents' names.
Against her father's wishes, Franklin married her first husband, Ted White, in front of a justice of the peace in Ohio in 1961, when she was nineteen. White later replaced Aretha's father as her manager in 1967. According to close friends, White was physically abusive and it's suggested White's physical abuse and philandering were the cause of Franklin's heart-wrenching vocals on her best-known recordings during the Atlantic years. Her producer, Jerry Wexler once called Franklin "the lady of mysterious sorrows" since Franklin didn't tell anyone her personal story. Following a 1968 cover article in Time magazine, in which her abusive marriage and a claim, that her mother abandoned her at a young age made the article, Franklin decided to remain private, refusing to grant many interviews with media groups and in the few she gave, approached the interviewers with caution.
After ending her affair with Ken Cunningham after a seven-year on-again, off-again relationship, Franklin married actor Glynn Turman on April 11, 1978, at her father's New Bethel Baptist Church with her father presiding over the ceremony. Aretha became a surrogate stepmother to Turman's three children from a previous marriage. Due to their schedules, however, it wasn't long before their marriage fell apart despite living together in Franklin's mansion in Encino. In late 1982, Franklin and Turman separated after only four years, eventually divorcing in early 1984.
In early 2012, it was reported, that Aretha was set to walk down the aisle a third time with her longtime companion Willie Wilkerson. Franklin and Wilkerson had plans to marry in 1987 but later called off those plans. Within a month after Franklin had announced the wedding in 2012, she called off the plans again.
Relatives, other romances and friends edit:
Franklin's sisters Erma Franklin and Carolyn Franklin were professional singers and sang as backup for Franklin during her initial success at Atlantic. Her brother, the Reverend Cecil Franklin, took over as her manager after her divorce from Ted White was finalized. Cecil remained her manager until his death from lung cancer on December 26, 1989. Younger sister Carolyn preceded Cecil in death in early 1988 from breast cancer while Erma Franklin later died from throat cancer in 2002. Franklin's eldest half-brother, Vaughn (born December 24, 1934) and elder half-sister Carl Kelley (née Jennings; born 1940) are still alive. Kelley is C.L. Franklin's daughter by Mildred Jennings, a then 12-year-old congregant of New Salem Baptist Church of Memphis, Tennessee, where C.L. was pastor in the late 1930s and early 1940s.,
Franklin was close to her minister father, C. L. Franklin. C. L. served as Aretha's first manager, a position he gave up to Ted White after their marriage. Franklin was performing in Las Vegas on June 10, 1979, when her father was allegedly shot by attempted robbers at his LaSalle Street home in Detroit. Aretha and her family returned their father back to his home six months after the shooting left him in a coma. Franklin moved back to Detroit at the end of 1982 to assist with the care of her father, who died in Detroit's New Light Nursing Home on July 27, 1984.,
Aretha's relationship with road manager Ken Cunningham was on and off from 1969 until a final breakup in 1976. During one breakup in 1971, Franklin, living back in northwest Detroit, had a brief liaison with Temptations star Dennis Edwards. The relationship inspired Franklin's hit, "Day Dreaming". Franklin and Edwards' romance cooled quickly but they've remained friends. Franklin is also friendly with many of her Detroit peers, that went on to be music superstars including Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder. She was friendly with members of the Four Tops as well, later singing with them on several records in the 1980s. Franklin also had a close friendship with Sam Cooke after meeting as gospel performers. Following Cooke's death, Franklin recorded his songs "A Change Is Gonna Come" and "You Send Me".,
During the late 1960s, Franklin grew close with Sweet Inspirations founder Cissy Houston, who sang background on Franklin's "Ain't No Way". Due to this friendship, she was later made honorary aunt of Cissy's daughter, Whitney Houston, who often referred to Franklin as "Auntie Ree". Franklin recalled meeting Whitney at either 8 or 9 years old, when Whitney's mother brought her to a recording studio. Sometime in the 1980s, a PR mistake listed Franklin as Houston's godmother. On February 11, 2012, Whitney Houston died in Beverly Hills from unknown causes. Franklin was devastated by her death and said it was "so stunning and unbelievable". She planned to perform at the memorial service on February 18, but her representative claimed that Franklin was suffering from leg spasm and was unable to attend. In response to criticism of her not attending, she said "God knows I wanted to be there, but I just couldn't.",
Weight issues, health problems, and surgery edit:
Franklin acknowledged her issues with her weight in the past even telling an interviewer from Jet magazine, that she was always trying to lose weight. Before undergoing surgery for an undisclosed ailment that halted her schedule in 2010, Franklin had begun losing weight. According to the singer in 2011, she said she had lost up to 85 lbs in weight following her surgery. In discussing the events in 2011, she has said that her doctor told her, "the surgery that you just had is going to add 15 to 20 more years to your life."
Connection to the Civil Rights Movement edit:
Aretha Franklin has been described as "the voice of the civil rights movement, the voice of the black America" and a symbol of black equality. Franklin first became connected with the movement through her father, Reverend C.L. Franklin. Rev. Franklin was a preacher, who traveled the country as well as recorded a weekly sermon for the radio station, WLAC, which reached 65 percent of the African-American population. On tours with her father, Franklin began her singing career. Rev. Franklin also introduced Franklin to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., starting a lifelong friendship between the two.
Through Franklin's album I Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You (1967), hit "Respect" rose to the top. Her strong voice asking for something as simple as respect reflects the cries of the civil rights movement. Her lyrics mirror that of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech. Most notably the lines "Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children".
Franklin did not actively head demonstrations or participate in sit-ins, but she performed at numerous rallies with King, lending her voice and fame to pull in crowds. Franklin is a registered Democrat. She is also described as the soul of gospel.
Awards and achievements edit:
On June 28, 1968, she became the second African-American woman to appear on the cover of Time magazine.,
On August 1, 1968, she sang the National Anthem at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, IL.,
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.,
Aretha Franklin is one of three musicians, along with Madonna & Marvin Gaye, to have singles peak at each of the top 10 positions on the US Billboard Hot 100.,
On January 20, 1987, she became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.,
On March 29, 1987, Franklin sang "America the Beautiful" at WrestleMania III.,
In 1994, Aretha Franklin was one of the honorees of the Kennedy Center Honors. (Source: Kennedy Center Honors: Past Recipients.),
In September 1999, she was awarded The National Medal of Arts by President Clinton.,
In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked her ninth on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.,
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) 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 XL.,
On May 13, 2006, she was presented with an honorary Doctor of Music degree by the Berklee College of Music.,
On April 1, 2007, Franklin 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,
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 No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists list by Billboard.,
November 2008, Franklin was named by Rolling Stone magazine as the No. 1 all-time best singer of the rock era, 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.,
May 2009, Franklin received an Honorary Doctorate of Music (D.Musc.) from Brown University,
On May 23, 2010, Franklin received an Honorary Doctorate in Music from Yale University.,
On June 1, 2010, Aretha Franklin's recording of "Chain of Fools" (1967) was voted a Legendary Michigan Song.,
On February 13, 2011, the Grammy Awards paid tribute to Franklin with a medley of her classics by fellow singers Christina Aguilera, Florence Welch, Jennifer Hudson, Martina McBride and Yolanda Adams,
On October 16, 2011, Franklin sang "Precious Lord (Take My Hand)" for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s memorial dedication ceremony in Washington, D.C.,
On June 5, 2012, Franklin was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Music from Princeton University.,
On August 14, 2012, Franklin was inducted to the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame.,
Grammy Awards edit:
Franklin has won 18 performance Grammy Awards, and two honorary Grammys: the Grammy Legend Award (1991) and the Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award (1994).
She has won many awards for Best Female R&B Vocal Performances, 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
Best Rhythm & Blues Recording
Best Female R&B Vocal Performance
Best Female R&B Vocal Performance
Chain Of Fools
Best Female R&B Vocal Performance
Share Your Love With Me
Best Female R&B Vocal Performance
Don't Play That Song For Me
Best Female R&B Vocal Performance
Bridge Over Troubled Water
Best Female R&B Vocal Performance
Young, Gifted and Black (album)
Best Soul Gospel Performance
Amazing Grace (album)
Best Female R&B Vocal Performance
Master Of Eyes
Best Female R&B Vocal Performance
Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing
Best Female R&B Vocal Performance
Hold On...I'm Comin' (album track)
Best Female R&B Vocal Performance
Freeway Of Love
Best Female R&B Vocal Performance
Best R&B Performance - Duo Or Group with Vocals
I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) (with George Michael)
Best Soul Gospel Performance - Female
One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism (album)
Living Legend Award
Lifetime Achievement Award
Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance
Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance
A House Is Not A Home
Best Gospel Performance (tie with The Clark Sisters "Blessed and Highly Favored")
Never Gonna Break My Faith (with Mary J. Blige)