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:
- The Gospel Soul of Aretha Franklin 1956
- The Electrifying Aretha Franklin 1962
- The Tender, The Moving, The Swinging Aretha... 1962
- Laughing on the Outside 1963
- Unforgettable 1964: A tribute to Dinah Washington in big band jazz style.
- Songs of Faith 1964
- Once in a Lifetime 1965
- Take It Like You Give It 1967
- Lee Cross 1967
- Aretha Arrives 1967: Covering the Rolling Stones' Satisfaction in a soul adaptation, not unlike Otis Redding's 1965 version.
- I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You) 1967: Apart from Respect, this album contains Ray Charles' Drown In My Own Tears and Sam Cooke's A Change Is Gonna Come.
- Aretha in Paris 1968: Recorded live on May 7, 1968.
- Aretha Now 1968: Includes Think and Sam Cooke's You Send Me.
- Queen of Soul 1968: Includes (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and the soul ballad Good To Me As I Am To You with Eric Clapton on guitar.
- Lady Soul 1968
- Aretha Franklin: Live! 1969
- I Say a Little Prayer 1969
- Soul '69 1969: With a cover of Smokey Robinson's The Tracks Of My Tears.
- Don't Play That Song 1970
- Sweet Bitter Love 1970
- This Girl's in Love with You 1970: Includes covers of two Beatles' hits (Eleanor Rigby and Let It Be) and the 1968 Dusty Springfield hit Son Of A Preacher Man.
- Spirit in the Dark 1970
- Live at the Fillmore West 1971: Featuring live covers of Bridge Over Troubled Water, Eleanor Rigby and Diana Ross's contemporary hit Reach Out And Touch (Somebody's Hand).
- Young, Gifted & Black 1971
- Amazing Grace 1972: Recorded live in a church, includes her version of Marvin Gaye's Wholly Holy.
- Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky) 1973
- With Everything I Feel in Me 1974
- Let Me in Your Life 1974
- You 1975
- Two Originals 1975
- Sparkle 1976: Soundtrack to the movie with the same name. The hit single Something He Can Feel was covered by En Vogue in 1992.
- Satisfaction 1977
- Sweet Passion 1977
- Most Beautiful Songs 1977
- Almighty Fire 1978
- La Diva 1979
- Aretha (1980) 1980
- Aretha Sings the Blues 1980
- Love All the Hurt Away 1981
- Jump to It 1982: Produced by Luther Vandross.
- Get It Right 1983: Produced by Luther Vandross.
- Never Grow Old 1984
- Aretha's Jazz 1984
- First Lady of Soul 1985
- Who's Zoomin' Who? 1985: Produced by Narada Michael Walden. Guest musicians include Eurythmics, Carlos Santana and Clarence Clemons.
- Soul Survivor 1986
- Aretha 1986: I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) with George Michael; cover of Jumping Jack Flash from the Whoopi Goldberg movie.
- One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism 1987
- Through the Storm 1989: Featuring James Brown, Whitney Houston, Elton John, Kenny G and The Four Tops.
- What You See Is What You Sweat 1991: Some duets with Michael MacDonald and Luther Vandross.
- Jazz to Soul 1992
- Love Songs 1997
- A Rose Is Still a Rose 1998
- You Grow Closer 1998
Aretha Franklin died on August 16, 2018
, at her home.