Aretha Franklin Biography

Review The Artist (43)

Aretha Franklin-photo
(Born 25th March 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee)

The fate of gospel music was forever altered in 1956 when a 14-year-old choir girl named Aretha first belted out "Precious Lord" for a congregation of 4,500 at Detroit's New Bethel Baptist Church. What followed this conception of the legendary "Lady Soul" is nothing short of amazing grace -- more than a dozen million-selling singles, 20 No. 1 R&B hits, a cover story in Time, a civil rights award from Martin Luther King Jr., a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 15 Grammys (including a lifetime achievement award in 1995) and a role alongside John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in the cinematic jewel,The Blues Brothers.

Aretha Franklin's lifetime devotion to song, though often interrupted by personal turmoil and tragedy, created a soul standard that remains unchallenged and unbroken today.Aretha Franklin was born on March 25, 1942 in Memphis TN to a respected gospel singer and powerful orator who encouraged young Aretha, Carolyn and Erma to hone their voices and free their spirits. The three sisters sang in the church choir every Sunday, listening to the sermons of their father, Rev. C.L. Franklin, and rubbing elbows with future stars like Smokey Robinson and Sam Cooke.

An untouchable force behind the microphone, Franklin hit a stumbling block when she became a 15-year-old unwed mother. By age 17 she had two sons in Detroit and a future waiting in New York, so in 1960, Franklin's grandmother took the children and loaded their young mother on a bus to Manhattan, where she began recording demonstration tapes and attracting national attention. After declining offers from Motown and RCA, Franklin was finally snatched up by Columbia Records' renowned talent scout John Hammond. The Columbia years proved controversial and confusing for Franklin, who was shepherded into unfamiliar pop music territory rather than her native R&B. Criticized as a white company that did not appreciate Franklin's talent, Columbia produced 10 respectable albums, but only one bonafide pop hit in six years: "Rock-a-bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody." When her contract expired in 1966, producer Jerry Wexler pounced on the raw talent, signing her to Atlantic and immediately digging into her R&B roots.

Wexler pushed Franklin into a cauldron of red hot blues when he brought her to the Florence Alabama Music Emporium studios in Muscle Shoals. There Franklin was to record with a crew of versatile and talented musicians like Cissy Houston, Duane Allman and Eric Clapton, but a drunken brawl between then-husband/manager Ted White and one of the musicians put those plans on hold. The singular completed work from Muscle Shoals, "I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)," was a gospel-charged sensation that convinced Franklin to finish the album in New York. 1967's I Never Loved a Man was the first in a long line of LPs that brought America to its knees.

During the next three years, Franklin burned with passion and intensity, selling millions of albums with Top 20 gospel-crossover hits like "Respect," "Baby I Love You," "Chain of Fools," "Since You've Been Gone," "Think" and "The House That Jack Built." These radio staples contrasted with her Columbia recordings in their raw R&B foundation, upon which Franklin built an eclectic structure of gospel, blues, pop and rock. Perhaps the most stimulating song of its time, "Respect," took on several empowering translations during the era of black activism, feminism and sexual liberation. A rallying cry for social progress, "Respect," won Franklin two Grammy awards and an honorary award from Martin Luther King Jr. -- a man she would later eulogize with an uplifting rendition of "Precious Lord." While fame tumbled down upon her, Franklin led a personal life of hardship hidden from the world.

Her troubled eight-year marriage to White ended in 1969, after they had a son, Teddy Jr. That same year her father was arrested for possession of marijuana and she was rumored to be drinking heavily, but Franklin did not allow her personal strife to shut down the hit factory. "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "Don't Play That Song," "Spanish Harlem" and "Rock Steady" were just a few of the hits Franklin scored in the early '70s, during which time she also gave birth to a fourth son, Kecalf, out of wedlock.

Franklin won Grammy awards every year between 1969 and 1975 (Natalie Cole won in 1976), and even sang at President Jimmy Carter's inauguration, but by the end of the '70s her record sales were beginning to dwindle.Aretha's final album for Atlantic was titled 'LaDiva', and it didn't do much to restore ReRe's chart domination. Franklin gave her career a kick-start in 1980 with a cameo appearance in The Blues Brothers, a movie that introduced Franklin to a younger audience. That same year she left Atlantic for Arista, which produced sleek new hits like "Freeway of Love" and "Who's Zoomin' Who." Franklin's first Arista album, 'Aretha', released one year after her father died of gunshot wounds suffered during a robbery attempt at his home, became her highest charting album since 1972.

The album included Aretha's soulful rendition of the Doobie Brothers classic 'What A Fool Believes', and it fared better than any of her final 3 albums for Atlantic.The next album, 'Love all The Hurt Away', was a moderate success in 1981 that featured a duet by Aretha and the legendary George Benson on the title track.At this point, Clive Davis decided to tap the 'hot' Luther Vandross & Marcus Miller to produce the 1982 hit album & title track, 'Jump To It'.Aretha's return to the top of the R&B charts was long overdue, and Arista wanted more hits, so Vandross & Miller returned for 1983's 'Get It Right', which continued the formula they used 2 years earlier, and the response was lukewarm at best.

After a 2 year hiatus, Aretha was teamed with the talented Narada Michael Walden, who produced her comeback hit album 'Who's Zoomin' Who ?' in 1985.The album won critical praise, and Aretha returned to the top of the Billboard charts with her most successful Arista project, which also earned The Queen the 1985 Grammy Award for the hit 'Freeway Of Love'.This was Aretha's first award since 1974, and her greatness was reaffirmed. The 1987 follow-up album, 'Aretha', included the Grammy-winning & #1 smash duet with George Michael, "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)".While her pop comeback continued in 1987, Aretha also returned to her gospel roots with 'One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism', which also earned her a Grammy for Best Soul Gospel Performance.In 1987, Aretha Franklin became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, while also winning multiple Grammy Awards.

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My second cousin I never had the pleasure to know | Reviewer: Felicia Hudson | 3/1/14

I was eleven years old when I heard one of your songs played on the radio, and my mom Leah H. said "that's my cousin!" I now have a son that is mirroring the talents in our family and says Mom, music is my life! Jennifer Hudson is also a relative on my father side so how bizarre is this? Fate or destiny is on our side, and I'm sooo proud of you!

Inspiration | Reviewer: Kyra Franklin | 8/1/13

Not only do we share a last name, but we share a passion for music, that carries us through the rough patches of life. Your voice is beautiful, you are beautiful, and you will always be one of my favorite musicians. My grandmother, Helen Franklin, has also told me that we could possibly be related. I'm coquasian, but I do have African American blood, which makes me all the more excited to find that we could very possibly be related. I'm 14 years old, and yet, you still remain my strongest inspiration.

Southern Voice | Reviewer: anonomys | 5/9/13

Hello, i ma big fan of yours and im doing a biography on you and im wondering were did you first work? thanks, a fan of yours!

Happy birthday EMPRESS OF SOUL | Reviewer: Mandingo from Jamaica | 3/25/13

Ever since I heard your first song in the 60's Aretha I have loved your singing and I have also loved your beautiful looks.My birthday was 18 March .Ken Boothe my friend and one of Jamaica's greatest singers was born 25 March 1948.Lady Soul you are my favourite Lady Soul singer.All others come after you.Have a good day and may the Creator bless and keep you in good health and wealth and all other good things,including your spiritual well-being.Love to your immediate family.I LOVE YOU.RESPECT ! ! !

Aretha Franklin | Reviewer: Shayla | 2/12/13

Dear Mrs.Franklin:
My name is Shayla and I'm doing an research ( black history ) about you and I'm sorry for you loss. I'm getting to know a lot about you and my friend La'Rhonda Franklin said her mother have and album of yours and I'm just going to sit back and just listen. She says its really good. Well thats all I had to say.

Related? | Reviewer: Stephen Franklin | 8/2/12

Hi, by the way, I have always enjoyed your music. I just finished the family tree and found that you are a relative and was wondering where the white that I am came from in the family unless it is in err. I am white and 60 yrs. old. Please comment.

Love Your Music | Reviewer: Sandra Bruce | 4/8/12

Hi Aretha! It is a pleasure and an honor to send this little note to you. I have listened to your music for many years. You have an awesome talent that has brought joy to my life. When I hear your music it makes me go through so many emotions. Every song reminds me of a moment in my life. Some were good and some were sad. Nevertheless I wouldn't change those moments in my life ever. I thank you for your legendary music. It got me through many a moments.

Sandra Bruce
Chicago, Illinois

Hello! | Reviewer: Anonymous | 2/15/12

Hi Ms. Aretha,
My name is Natalia and I love your voice. I am 12 years old and I am also a singer. I absolutely love your voice. You are my hero. I loved you in Blues Brothers singing Think!

your love | Reviewer: jacqi | 2/9/12

dear ms franklin, i love your music,u make me cry!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!! god be with u R.E.S.P.E.C.T

Down thorugh the years | Reviewer: Lavern | 11/26/11

Ms. Franklin I have truly enjoyed your music from 1967 to the present day. The Last time I saw you in person was in Detroit, MI at your sisters funeral. I use to work with Brenda Corbit. I believe she is your cousin with that beautiful voice in the background. A voice life your Ms. Frankin only come once in a 100 years. You have made history. I look forward to seeing your lifestory on film. Love always a turn fan.

secrets behind good singing | Reviewer: idowu fredrick orogbemi | 4/26/11

I am interested in knowin d fundamental and secrets of good singing.actually, I'm just comin up in d world of contemporary songs and 2 know basic ideas needed to be put in place as a beginner.I will be very grateful if u can help me and contribute immesely 2 my music world.Thanks so much; and God bless.

letter | Reviewer: rev bob ritter | 2/13/11

miss franklin, i enjoy your music very much. hope your feeling better from your recent hospital stay. our prayers are with you. would like an autographed picture of youself. god bless you. please send to rev. and mrs. bob ritter, po box 936, 1603 mitchell dr., rochester, indiana 46975. again our prat\yers are with you.

The lady | Reviewer: Beth Morais | 11/14/10

'till you come back to me, that's what I'm gonna do, natural woman - I wish everyday to see a live presentation of this complete artist. My day will be full of happiness when this day comes. What a blessed day and what a incredible lady.

One Aretha | Reviewer: nobela harris | 7/17/10

l have always loved your vioce no matter what song am listening to be it soul or gosple l just got your dvd aretha in performance in paris l think was recorded in the 60s l just couldn,t the amount of atistic power with which you delivered all your songs and still does today l think there should be more of you in performance for the young generation to learn l will end my saying please put more of your work out there be it gosple, soul DVD for us to to enrich our soul and spirit. There is and will only be ONE Aretha

Aretha Franklin at the Seminole Hardrock Hollywood , Florida | Reviewer: Cora | 3/21/10

Aretha, I had never seen you in person. I saw you March 16, at the Seminole Hardrock in Hollywood, Florida. When you walked on stage , there was so much love for you. I was in awe, I had a seat in the 7th row. I love you, I have your music and enjoy listening to your beautiful voice. Please keep on singing, good gave you the best gift ever. I admire you, you are definitely the Queen of soul and I think you are simply the best!!! God Bless you and your family. Love Cora

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