Respect To The Late Great Queen of Soul: Aretha Franklin 1942 - 2018

Posted by Billyjam, August 16, 2018 07:40am | Post a Comment
Aretha Franklin (1942-2018) The Queen of Soul 180 gram vinyl LP (2018 Not Now Music)

American music icon Aretha Franklin (aka The Queen of Soul) has died this morning at age 76 in her hometown of Detroit, Michigan as confirmed in the past hour by ClickOnDetroit. Pancreatic cancer was the cause of death for Franklin who reportedly was diagnosed with cancer eight years ago and was performing up until last year. Franklin’s death follows reports over the past several days of her pending passing. On Sunday last Showbiz411 first reported that Franklin was “gravely ill” with follow-up reports since from such outlets as the Associated Press who confirmed that the beloved artist, reportedly in hospice care, was so “seriously ill” that her death was “imminent.” People magazine quoted a close Franklin associate as saying that, “She has been ill for a long time,” but that, “she did not want people to know and she didn’t make it public.”

Following the numerous news reports on the seriousness of Franklin’s waning health, countless artists such as Mariah Carey took to social media to express their love for the Queen of Soul while Stevie Wonder and Jesse Jackson both reportedly visited the ailing star in person this week. During Monday night’s large scale concert with Jay-Z at Detroit’s Ford Field in Detroit, Beyonce dedicated the married musical couple’s concert (part of the ongoing On The Run (OTR) II tour) to the the hometown legend, as
reported by The Detroit Free Press  who also noted how the concert's opening act DJ Khaled’s  mix included Franklin's huge hit “Respect” which, like Beyonce’s dedication/shout-out, drew a loud crowd response.

Although long widely known as  “The Queen of Soul” Franklin’s rich six-decade history, in which she recorded 88 hits and earned 18 Grammys, ranged from soul and RnB to pop, gospel, jazz and opera. Evidence of this can be found in the prolific artist’s nine-pages on the Amoeba online store that cover various styles from a recording career that began barely into her teens. Research reveals that Aretha recorded over 130 singles and almost 50 albums (live and studio) while there are approximately an equal number of albums of compilation/collections of Aretha Franklin's music. According to Billboard charts, Aretha ranked number one among female vocalists scoring the most Billboard chart hits during the years 1955 to 2012.
Born in Memphis, Tenn in 1942 Franklin is most associated with Detroit, Michigan where her family moved to when she was just 2 years of age. Like so many African American musical greats, Aretha Franklin's career began in church where she first sang in her minister (and civil rights activist) father, the Reverend C. L. Franklin’s New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit. In fact her debut album, Songs of Faith, was recorded in the church and released in 1956 by JVB/Battle Records when Franklin was only 14 years of age! By the ripe old age of eighteen the talented singer and keyboardist / piano player had signed a  major label record deal. That was in 1960. By the end of that decade Aretha had established herself as a major star with a string of timeless hits including "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” "Chain of Fools" and of course "Respect.” 

While "Respect" will forever be associated with Aretha, that Grammy awarded, 1967 number one hit single was actually a cover of an Otis Redding single from three years previously. But the Queen of Soul made it her own with her trademark soaring vocals and such touches as her additional vocals of spelling out “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”  and her added clever improv spoken-word catch-line “sock it to me, sock it to me.” 

Aretha Franklin “Respect” 1967 #1 Hit Single for the Queen of Soul was written by Otis Redding who originally recorded it but Aretha made the song her own as well as making it a civil rights era anthem

Aretha Franklin  "Freeway of Love" was the first single off the diva's 1985 album "Who's Zoomin Who" whose other hits included the title track and the Eurythmics collaboration
"Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves - all found on Best of Aretha: 1980-1998

Aretha Franklin + George Michael''s 1987 #1 hit "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" is ranked by Billboard as the singer's biggest selling hit single. Found on such collections as Playlist: The Very Best of Aretha Franklinit was just one of many hits for Aretha in the 80's

Aretha Franklin “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” (Live December 2015) was so soulfully charged that it brought then President Barack Obama to tears.

Also a hit in 1967 for Aretha was the Carole King / Gerry Goffin penned "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” Everyone agreed, including Carole King, that Aretha made this song her own as witnessed five decades later at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C. where the then 73 year old’s vocal powerhouse’s rendition was so moving that it brought President Obama to tears (video above in which Carole King was one of the evening's Honors recipients). Note that in 2009 Aretha had also performed at Barack Obama’s inauguration. Even more profoundly moving and poignant was Aretha’s spell-binding rendition of “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” in April, 1968 at the memorial service of Martin Luther King, Jr. [Note: as music historians will point out, it was Mahalia Jackson who sang the same song at Martin Luther King Jr's funeral, as distinct from the memorial] Video below.  

By the time of MLK's April 1968 assassination Aretha had already established herself as a voice of the civil rights movement. Her 1967 hit “Respect” was embraced by women, particularly by Black women, as a civil rights anthem of the era. Further Aretha was distinctive for been both a popular musician and a civil rights activist; one who refused to play to segregated audiences.  Through her father’s example she instinctively stood up for her rights. When early in life her family relocated from Tennessee north to Detroit, it was during racial segregation in America. It was her father who, along with Rev Albert Cleage, organized the landmark June 1963 Detroit Walk to Freedom civil rights march that attracted 125,000+ protesters demanding equal human rights for African Americans. MLK was among the march's keynote speakers. Two months was the historic March on Washington. But it would still be another two years before Selma the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that followed. Throughout all this time Aretha was involved firsthand as both artist and activist.

Into the next decade Aretha kept her message going strong, most notably with the 1972 album “Young, Gifted and Black" which took its title from the Nina Simone song “To Be, Young Gifted & Black.” See fan made video of this song below from the album that also included the hit single "Rock Steady" released in late 1971 as an advance single. Also released that same year was Aretha Franklin’s incredible live gospel album Amazing Grace that was recorded live with James Cleveland & The Southern California Community Choir at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles in January, 1972. Reportedly Mick Jagger was in the front row of the LA church’s pews for this double-platinum live album’s recording.

Billboard ranks Franklin's 1987 collaboration with the late George Michael, "I Knew You Were Waiting For Me," as the singer's biggest selling hit single and found on such collections as Playlist: The Very Best of Aretha Franklin. Note that she was already 45 years of age but revered by a whole new generation of music fans. Another collaborative pop hit from that same era for the Queen of Soul was "Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves" with Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics off the artist's popular 1985 album Who's Zoomin' Who that also featured such hits as the title track and "Freeway of Love."

While the bulk of Aretha’s recordings were in the first four decades of her prolific career she continued recording and releasing music up until last year. Her final album was the 2017 studio album A Brand New Me: Aretha Franklin with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Rhino/Atlantic) that is also on vinyl/LP format while her final live album was the 2007 released Oh Me Oh My: Aretha Live in Philly, 1972 (Rhino). Aretha’s very final musical performance was nine months ago in November, 2017 at the Elton John AIDS Foundation in New York. Meanwhile her very final public performance was one year ago in August 2017 at the Mann Center in Philadelphia where, despite her evident physical frailty, she still managed to deliver a commanding performance.

Aretha’s passing comes a month before the release of the new collection of her definitive late sixties era recordings: The Atlantic Singles Collection 1967-1970 2CD set with 34 tracks that will also be released as a 2-LP vinyl collection with 25 tracks- both the 2CD and the 2LP versions will be released on September 28th but can be pre-ordered from Amoeba now. Earlier this year, before her health took a really bad turn, Clive Davis had proposed to Franklin an all-star tribute concert to celebrate the singer’s sixty plus years in the music business that Franklin approved of and was looking forward to attending.  

The scheduled November 14th  concert event reportedly to take place at Madison Square Garden in NYC, entitled “Clive Davis Presents: A Tribute to Aretha Franklin,” will still go on as planned (albeit sadly minus the guest it honors) and will include such performers as Jennifer Hudson. Note that singer/actress Hudson was also personally chosen by Franklin to play her in the upcoming Aretha biopic for Sony/Tri-Star. Beyond such things as this upcoming Aretha biopic and tribute concert, the Queen of Soul will forever live on through her indelible musical legacy.

Rest In Peace and eternal Respect to the Queen of Soul: Aretha Franklin.

Aretha Franklin sings “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” during Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Service (not funeral, that was  Mahalia Jackson) in 1968

Aretha Franklin “(To Be) Young Gifted and Black” (1972) from the album that also featured such other 
classics as the funky hit single "Rock Steady"
Aretha Franklin  “I Say A Little Prayer”  written by Burt Bacharach and Hal Davis and 
also popularized by Dionne Warwick

Aretha Franklin “Mary, Don't You Weep” fan-made video from the 1972 live gospel album 
Amazing Grace and found on the Aretha gospel compilation Gospel Greats

Aretha Franklin on David Letterman, January 28, 1981. Posted to YouTube this week is this clip of a rarely seen Aretha interview and performance of "United Together” plus an inspired interpretation of
The Doobie Brothers' “What a Fool Believes." As noted by the YT poster this is not the greatest
video quality but for the audio/music it is well worth checking out this clip.

Released last September Aretha's Gold [MFSL] (LP)  is collectors item that
2LP, 45RPM, Limited to 4000 numbered copies

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Otis Redding (12), The Queen Of Soul (1), Aretha (1), Detroit Soul (1), Beyonce Aretha Franklin (1), Aretha Franklin R.i.p. (1), Barack Obama Aretha Franklin (1), Aretha Franklin (13), Clive Davis (2), Mick Jagger (9), Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial 1968 (1)