Aretha Franklin (1942) soul singer

Lady Soul (born March 25, 1942 in Memphis) started singing in her father's church in Detroit. Reverend C.L. Franklin had three musical daughters: Carolyn and Erma would also have some records. But Aretha was definitely the most musical of all, making her first gospel recordings at the age of 14. Talent scout John Hammond signed her for Columbia, recording minor hits in the first half of the 1960's like Rock-a-bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody. Her work at Columbia was considerably tame 'though.

When Franklin left Columbia for Atlantic, producer Jerry Wexler was determined to bring out Aretha's R&B qualities. She recorded her first Atlantic single I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You) at Muscle Shoals in Alabama with well-regarded R&B musicians. The combination was delightful, with the backup musicians providing a soulful accompaniment for Aretha's passionate and intense voice. She then became one of the biggest international recording stars. Franklin was also a fine and somewhat underrated keyboard player.

From then on, Aretha Franklin was also seen as a symbol of Black America. She echoed the increased self-belief of African-Americans in the decade of the civil rights movements.

Her hit statistics are remarkable: she scored ten Top Ten hits in one and a half year (part of 1967 and 1968) for instance, followed by a constant flow of reasonable hits and successful albums for the next five years. Her Atlantic albums were also big-time sellers, and far more consistent artistically than those of most soul stars of the era. Huge hits included Spanish Harlem, Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water and Day Dreaming. In this period, Aretha Franklin also produced one of her most respected releases the double LP Amazing Grace (1972), which was in fact a renewed exploration of her gospel roots and resulted to be one of the greatest gospel-pop albums of all time.

Franklin's artistic inspiration seemed to be diminishing near the end of the 1970's, scoring just minor hits. Most of her successes in this period were duets, or crafted with the assistance of more up to date contemporaries such as Luther Vandross. She herself enjoyed to sing more commercial pop songs, although her fans wanted to see her as a pure soul singer.

Her greatest hits:

Discography (albums):

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