Aretha Louise Franklin was born in Memphis in 1942, she was the third of four children and the fifth of six overall between her parents past relationships. When Aretha was six her family settled in Detroit. Soon after the moved her parents split up, due to her fathers work as a Baptist minister. Aretha was raised by her grandmother Rachel, her mother died when she was ten. At a young age she was singing in church and learned to play the piano by ear. When Aretha was in her preteens she was singing solos at New Bethel Baptist Church where her father was the minister.
While growing up Aretha was around celebrities who hung out at their home.
Some of the gospel greats were Albertina Walker and The Caravans, Mahalia Jackson and Clara Ward. These three women had a role in her vocal development. Aretha’s father recorded his sermon for Checker Records and was becoming famous and more popular with his work as a civil rights activist. In 1956 Aretha’s father helped her sign a contract with Checker’s JVB gospel record division. At the age of fourteen she released her first album, Songs of Faith. Aretha worked under James Cleveland and toured the gospel circuit. Aretha became a mother of two son, so her gospel career was short. When she turned eighteen, she wanted a secular career. Aretha turned down Motown and Sam Cook’s RCA label, she decided on Columbia Records and moved to New York. Aretha released her first single in the fall of 1960 “Today I Sung the Blues”, it made it to the top ten on the R&B charts but didn’t make to the pop charts.
Aretha recorded a jazz album in 1961 for her first album, because of her love of Dinah Washington. Her record label was hoping it would due as good as Billie Holiday. Aretha had two R&B top ten hits “Operation Heartbreak”
and “Won’t Be Long” in 1961. “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody”
was her first top 40 on the pop charts. In 1963 she almost had a top fifty hit with “Runnin’ Out of Fools”. Columbia records went in another direction with Aretha they wanted her to record songs like “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss)”, “Every Little Bits Hurts” and “Mockingbird but this just didn’t bring any success. Aretha had gained a reputation as multi-talented vocalist and musician. In 1965 Aretha was doing a show and the master of ceremonies gave her a tiara crown declaring her “the queen of soul”. Little did she know that this title would stick. In 1966 she decide to leave Columbia for Atlantic, Columbia would continue to release Aretha recordings until 1969.
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Aretha’s first song with Atlantic in 1967 was “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” this song showed her gospel roots. There was tension between Aretha’s then husband and manager Ted White, this led to Aretha and Ted to go into hiding. Aretha return to the studio to record the b-side of the record “Do Right Woman”. Aretha’s “I Never Loved a Man”
soared up R&B and pop charts. Aretha’s second single “Respect” a Otis Redding original, became a bigger hit. The end of 1967 Aretha became one of the symbols of the civil rights movement due to the “Respect” single, which the feminist took as their theme song. Aretha had many more hits in the 60s like “Think” Dionne Warwick’s “I Say a Little Prayer”, “Ain’t No Way” and “The House That Jack Built” the list goes on. The end of 1960s the media title her “The Queen of Soul”.
Aretha went through more tragedies later in her life. In 1979 her father was shot during a attempted robbery at his home, this left him in a coma for five years. Aretha moved back home in 1982 to help take care of her father, he passed in 1984. In 2010 her second eldest son was attacked by three people in northwest Detroit. Aretha was married three times. Her husbands were Ted White, Ken Cummings and Glen Truman. In 2010 Aretha was supposed to go on tour with Condoleeza Rice, she fell and broke two ribs and had to cancel. Aretha is going through pancreatic cancer at this time in her life. The doctors told her to not perform until May 2011, I hope she can perform, I sure would like to see her perform in person. Aretha Franklin is the and always be “The Queen of Soul”. My prayers are with you. You can hear some of Aretha’s songs on Streetwise Radio www.streetwisesd.com/radio.