Aretha Franklin is the greatest soul singer to ever live. She's the reason we have Mary J. Blige, Cee-Lo Green, Adele, you name it. The singer, born Aretha Louise Franklin in March 1942, paved the way for all of the artists who followed. The Queen of Soul sang on a slew of hits such as "Natural Woman," "Do Right Man," and our personal favorite, her rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Her voice, which is sharp as a sword, sets her apart from songwriters, singers, and performer in any genre. All hail the queen!
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Franklin moved moved to Detroit with her family at the age of four. After her parents split up, she was raised mostly by her grandmother, while her father, a Baptist preacher, kept up his ministerial duties. Aretha sang in the church at the age of ten and was exposed to many singers such as Mahalia Jackson, as they passed through her father's church.
Franklin's first earned acclaim with her second single on Atlantic Records, "Respect." Originally written and recorded by Otis Redding, the song was given a gospel spin by Aretha that made the song all her own. Nikki Giovanni calls her "the voice of the civil rights movement, the voice of the black America."
Later collaborating with artists like George Michael in the 1980s and taking inspiration from Whitney Houston (Franklin is her god-mother) on tracks like "Sisters are Doing it for Themselves," Franklin showed her longevity and diversity in the music world.
The first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Aretha Franklin has won eighteen Grammys, performed for numerous presidents (President Clinton awarded her the National Medal of Arts, President Bush awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the hat she wore during Obama's inauguration was requested by the Smithsonian) and garnered the respect of all within ear shot of her incredible voice.
Hands down, Aretha Franklin is the greatest of all time.
February has traditionally been the month when the contributions from, traditions of and historical facts about African-Americans are celebrated. In honor of Black History Month, Backbeat will be celebrating iconic figures in the world of black music.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music