Aretha Louise Franklin (March 25, 1942 – August 16, 2018) was an American singer, songwriter, actress, pianist, and civil rights activist. Franklin began her career as a child singing gospel at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, where her father C. L. Franklin was a minister.

At the age of 18, Aretha embarked on a secular-music career as a recording artist for Columbia Records. While Franklin’s career did not immediately flourish, she found acclaim and commercial success after signing with Atlantic Records in 1966.

Hit songs such as “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)”, “Respect”, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, “Chain of Fools”, “Think”, and “I Say a Little Prayer” propelled her past her musical peers. By the end of the 1960s, Aretha Franklin had come to be known as the “Queen of Soul”.

“The kindest person you could ever meet”

I spoke to Detroit born & bred bass player to the stars Jerome Rimson, who told me “Aretha was The Queen of Detroit, the kindest person you could ever meet.”

Franklin received numerous honors throughout her career. She was awarded the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1987, she became the first female performer to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She also was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005 and into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2012. In 2010, Rolling Stone magazine ranked her number one on its list of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time” and number nine on its list of “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”.

The Pulitzer Prize jury in 2019 awarded Franklin a posthumous special citation “for her indelible contribution to American music and culture for more than five decades”. In 2020, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

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Compiled by SHARON QUIGLEY

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