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Paying Respect to the Queen (of Soul)

The+memorial+plaque+outside+of+Aretha+Franklin%27s+childhood+home
The memorial plaque outside of Aretha Franklin's childhood home

The memorial plaque outside of Aretha Franklin's childhood home

Photo taken by: Stephanie Godwin

Photo taken by: Stephanie Godwin

The memorial plaque outside of Aretha Franklin's childhood home

Sarah Parker, Reporter

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The music industry is full of grief following the passing of the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin. On Aug. 16, at 9:50 a.m., the singer passed away in her Detroit home after battling advanced pancreatic cancer. Franklin chose to keep her 10 year battle with the disease private, before peacefully passing away surrounded by those she loved.

 photo taken by: Stephanie Godwin
Aretha’s childhood home

Franklin was born in Memphis in 1942, to fellow singers Barbara Siggers Franklin and Reverend Clarence LaVaughn Franklin. Her mother passed away when Franklin was 10 years old. Her father was a preacher in numerous states before he landed a permanent job in Detroit. He was given the title of The Man with the Million Dollar Voice, due to his gospel singing and the broadcasting of his sermons nationwide.

Franklin grew up attending New Bethel Baptist Church where her father preached. It was only natural that she began singing in the choir with her sisters, Erma and Carlyn, where she rose to star soloist. The sisters would all sing together, which played a part in Franklin’s growing love for music.

Growing up, Franklin’s house had two pianos in them. Franklin used those pianos to teach herself how to play. She played songs from memory that she heard on the radio and gospel records. Her brother, Cecil Franklin, remembers how she would hear a song only once, then immediately could play and sing it afterwards.

Even at a young age, Franklin’s talent did not go unrecognized. Before the release of her first album, “Songs of Faith”, in 1956, recordings of her belting out gospel tunes and playing the piano were made available to the public.

Inspired by other solo artists, Franklin soon left the gospel realm to focus on building a career in secular music. In 1960, producer John Hammond signed Franklin to his label, Columbia Records. While working with Hammond, Franklin released nine albums over the following five years, including many R&B hits like “Respect” and “I Say a Little Prayer.”

In 1966, she made the decision to leave Columbia Records and pursue a different path for her musical career. Under producer Jerry Wexler, she signed with Atlantic Records. Backed by the vocals of Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, Franklin started working on her pop sound.

Franklin had her first Top 10 hit, “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You”, in 1967. After this, her albums “Aretha Arrives”(1967), “Lady Soul” (1968) and “Aretha Now” (1968),  brought her the cover of the June 1968 issue of Time Magazine, several Grammy Awards and her “Queen of Soul” nickname.

Due to her rise to fame, she became a prominent figure in the Civil Rights Movement. She even paid tribute to civil rights activists, Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, by singing at their funerals.  

Franklin saw an abundance of good fortune in 1972. Her album, “Amazing Grace”, became the best-selling gospel album of all time. The album contained hit songs “Don’t Play That Song” and her own take on “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” by Simon & Garfunkel.

In 1987 Franklin would become the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She celebrated the honor by releasing what would grow to be her No. 1 duet with George Michael, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me).”

In 1989, Franklin released her album, “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism”, which received a grammy for Best Soul Gospel Album. Five years later, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award and Kennedy Center Honors, an honor presented to those for their lifetime of contributions to American culture.

The upcoming century brought all new projects for Franklin. Her 2003 studio album produced two top charting singles. This resulted in chart topping singles for five consecutive decades. In 2005, she would be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In 2007, after releasing her duet album “Jewels in the Crown”, she left Arista to start her own record label, Aretha Records. Four years later she produced a debut album with her new label, Aretha: “A Woman Falling Out of Love.” Then in 2014, she became the first woman in history to have 100 songs on the R&B charts, following her cover of Adele’s  “Rolling in the Deep.” Due to her “astronomical success”, she had an asteroid named after her.

In 2009, Franklin played at the presidential inauguration for former President Barack Obama, but in 2010, her health began to decline. Due to this, she began to cancel appearances.

Franklin leaves behind four sons, four grandchildren and a legacy complete with numerous awards and achievements. Such achievements consist of 17 top 10 pop singles, 20 No. 1 R&B hits and placing over 100 singles on the billboard. She was able to do this based on her ability to sing in over four different octaves. Because of her impressive voice range, she mastered the styles of jazz, blues, rock and opera. She may be gone, but the mark she left on the musical industry is one that will forever be recognized.

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