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Aretha Franklin is known as the Queen of Soul. Franklin was born in Memphis, Tennessee on March 25, 1942. After her mother died from a heart attack, Franklin and her four siblings moved with their father to Detroit, Michigan. Her father, Reverend Clarence La Vaughan “C.L.” Franklin, became a nationally renowned preacher at New Bethel Baptist Church.
Franklin’s musical ability was recognized at an early age, and she was widely regarded as a child prodigy due to her gifts of playing the piano and singing. By the time she was 14, she had recorded tracks at the church where her father preached. Franklin’s father also had a traveling revival show that allowed her to interact with the likes of Mahalia Jackson, Sam Cooke, and Clara Ward.
Despite the positive influence of working with such great artists and her father’s religious influence, Franklin became a mother at 15 and had her second child just two years later. In 1960, Franklin released her first studio album through Columbia Records entitled The Great Aretha Franklin. After not achieving the success she deserved, she signed with Atlantic in 1967. After signing with the new label, Franklin released the top 10 hit, “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You).” Franklin continued to write a string of hits, including “Respect,” which won her two Grammy Awards and climbed to No. 1 on both the R&B and pop charts.
In 1972, Franklin produced the best selling gospel album to be released at that time, Amazing Grace, which sold more than 2 million copies. The early 1970s saw Franklin win 8 consecutive Grammy awards for Best R&B Female Vocal Performance, but by 1975, Franklin’s music began to lose its appeal as listeners turned to the disco craze. After a series of songs and albums that failed to garner her previous accolades and success, Franklin left Atlantic in 1979.
It took Franklin until 1982 to produce another album that topped the R&B charts. Her 1985 album, Who’s Zoomin’ Who? became her biggest selling album to that point. In 1986, Franklin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and she was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1987. After experiencing many ups and downs, Franklin released her final studio album in 2003 through Arista and founded Aretha Records.
Recent years have seen Franklin make a failed attempt at getting married and also suffer through the loss of her goddaughter, Whitney Houston. Despite her share of failures and tragedies, Franklin has continued to prove why she is known as the Queen of Soul. Check out the following video to learn more about her life and career.