Aretha Franklin is widely regarded as one of the most talented singers in the world; her interpretive skills and her technical abilities remain unrivalled within her genre – so much so that she has earned the nickname ‘The Queen of Soul’.
Born in 1942 in Memphis, Franklin ended up spending most of her childhood in Buffalo, Minnesota. Her father was a reverend, and so Franklin’s first introduction to music came in the form of gospel songs. However, as she grew up, she also began to take an interest in secular performers such as Sam Cooke and Dinah Washington.
When Franklin turned 14, she was offered the chance to record a gospel album. This led to her being ‘discovered’ by John Hammond, a famous talent scout, and eventually signing with Columbia. Music fanatics like Tunde Folawiyo might know that she remained with this label for most of the 1960s, during which time she released a total of nine albums and enjoyed a moderate amount of success.
However, towards the end of the decade, Franklin decided to accept an offer from Atlantic. It was Jerry Wexler, one of the main producers at this recording company, who helped her to reach mainstream audiences. With Atlantic, she got to record a single at the famous Alabama music hub, Muscle Shoals. All of the albums that she released with this label were huge hits; this was due not only to Franklin’s incredible vocals, but also to the diversity of the material she chose. Her albums featured rock, pop, blues and gospel covers, as well as plenty of original soul songs.
During the 1970s, she began to expand her reach, performing to audiences around San Francisco, in areas that were known to be more rock-orientated. Franklin managed to bewitch these audiences too, with her covers of Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Make It With You and Love The One You’re With.
She has continued to record and tour, releasing several more albums and contributing to soundtracks for a number of films over the years. As a lover of soul music, Tunde Folawiyo may remember that Franklin created her own label in 2005, called Aretha’s Records, and through this company has released a number of works, including Aretha: A Woman Falling Out Of Love.
Although her health has affected her ability to perform in recent times, she is still considered to be one of the greatest living singers, and has won many awards for her contributions to the world of music; she is one of the most honoured female artists in the history of the Grammys (second only to Alison Krauss) and, in 2005, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.