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Aretha Franklin Biography

Home > Music > F > Franklin, Aretha > Biography

Birth Name: Aretha Louise Franklin
Born: 1942/03/25
Birth Place: Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Years Active: 1956–present
Genres: Soul, Jazz, Rock, Pop, Blues, R&B, Gospel, And Classical

Aretha Louise Franklin (born March 25, 1942) is an American singer, songwriter and pianist commonly referred to as The Queen of Soul. Although renowned for her soul recordings, Franklin is also adept at jazz, rock, blues, pop, R&B and gospel music.

Her first single, "Today I Sung the Blues", was released in the fall of 1960 becoming a top ten R&B hit but failed to enter the pop charts. Franklin's self-titled debut album was released in January of 1961.

After scoring two more top ten R&B hits with "Operation Heartbreak" and "Won't Be Long" in 1961, Franklin scored her first top 40 pop hit with her rendition of "Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody".

Franklin began recording her first songs for Atlantic in early 1967. Franklin cut her first song - the blues ballad "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)" at Muscle Shoals's legendary FAME studios. Franklin headed to a studio in New York to record the b-side, the gospel-oriented "Do Right Woman". "I Never Loved a Man" soared up both the pop and R&B charts upon its release peaking at #9 and #1 respectively. Her second single with Atlantic would also be her biggest, most acclaimed work. "Respect.” "Respect” peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming a sixties anthem. Franklin had three more top 10 hits in 1967 - "Baby I Love You", "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" and "Chain of Fools". "Respect" later won Franklin her first two Grammys. She eventually win eight consecutive Grammys under the Best Female R&B Vocal Performance category.

Franklin's other hits during the late sixties included "Think", her rendition of Dionne Warwick's "I Say a Little Prayer", "Ain't No Way" and "The House That Jack Built" among others.

In 1974, she released “Let Me In Your Life.” The album yielded the smash single, "Until You Come Back to Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)." Franklin briefly returned to the top 40 in 1976 with the Curtis Mayfield production, “Sparkle,” which spawned the number-one R&B hit, "Giving Him Something He Can Feel".

In 1980, Franklin appeared on the film, “The Blues Brothers.” Following that performance, Clive Davis signed Franklin to his Arista Records imprint. The singles "United Together" and the George Benson-featured "Love All the Hurt Away" returned Franklin to the R&B top ten while 1982's “Jump to It,” became a comeback of sorts for Franklin on the pop music chart. The album stayed at #1 on the R&B Albums chart for seven weeks and crossed to #23 on the Billboard 200 album chart, selling over 600,000 units and becoming Aretha's first gold-certified album since the “Sparkle” soundtrack. The title track became Franklin's first number-one R&B hit in five years while also hitting #24 on the Hot 100. After the relative failure of her 1983 follow-up, “Get It Right,” also produced by Vandross, Franklin took some personal time off.

The album released in July 1985, “Who's Zoomin' Who?,” became Franklin's first platinum-certified success. The album launched several major hits including the title track and the Motown-inspired "Freeway of Love".

In 1986, Franklin released her self-titled follow-up to “Who's Zoomin' Who.” The album sold close to a million copies and featured the number-one hit, "I Knew You Were Waiting for Me", a duet with George Michael. The song became Franklin's first single since "Respect" nearly 20 years back to hit number-one on the Hot 100. Other hits from the album included a cover of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and another Motown-inspired hit, "Jimmy Lee".

In 1994 Franklin issued her Arista hits album and with Babyface released two hit singles, "Honey" and the top 40 pop ballad "Willing to Forgive."

In 2003, after 23 years with Arista, Franklin parted with the company and decided to go on the independent route. Her own label, Aretha Records, formed in 2005 but no albums have been issued from the label.

Franklin has won eighteen Grammy Awards in total during her nearly half-century long career and holds the record for most Best Female R&B Vocal Performance awards with eleven to her name (including eight consecutive awards from 1968 to 1975 — the first eight awarded in that category). She has scored a total of 45 "Top 40" hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. On June 28, 1968 she became the second African-American woman to appear on the cover of “Time” magazine. Aretha Franklin is one of three musicians, along with Madonna & Marvin Gaye, to achieve each of the top 10 positions on the US Billboard Hot 100. On January 20, 1987, she became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1994 she became the recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor. In September 1999 she was awarded The National Medal of Arts by President Clinton. In 2005 she was awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush and she became the second woman (Madonna being the first, a founding member) to be inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame.