Just like the majority, there were times in my life where I did not receive any respect, especially some jobs that I had in the past. When they did not respect me or honor my credentials, I heard Aretha Franklin’s song in my mind, “Respect.” As employers still disrespected me even more, I still heard her catchy lyrics: “All I’m askin’ is for a little respect.” Franklin always saved my day. Even though the higher ups did not respect me, I felt better knowing that Franklin was the voice that truly understood me and represented the underdogs.
With such a golden voice, Franklin was always respected in the music industry. No one could ever emulate Franklin’s voice because she was just so good. Above all other singers, she was in a class of her own.
For her exceptional talent, she received many awards. She acquired 18 Grammy Awards. On November 9, 2005, she was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House. She was the 1999 recipient of the Medal of Arts the Kennedy Center. Franklin was the first woman to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. She even has her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. For her stellar voice, she was awarded an honorary degree from Harvard University in 2014 and from several other top universities.
Born on March 25, 1942, Franklin came from a musically talented family. Clarence La Vaugh, “C.L.” Franklin, Aretha’s dad, was a celebrity preacher with a “million dollar voice.” Barbara Siggers, Aretha’s mom, was a piano player and singer. Erma and Carolyn, Aretha sisters, were also musically talented. For years, they provided the background vocals on Franklin’s recordings.
Ever since she was a child, Franklin was musically gifted. Starting her career as a child gospel singer at New Bethel Baptist Church, where her dad preached, she inspired the congregation with her beautiful voice. She was so talented that she learned to play the piano by ear.
With such a great voice, Franklin flourished in the music industry. She signed her first recording deal with J.V.D records. Released in 1956, her first album was Songs of Faith. In January 1961, Columbia launched Franklin’s first nonreligious record : Aretha: With The Ray Bryant Combo. This record featured her first single that made it to the Billboard Hot 100.
In addition to making great music, Franklin also participated in the Civil Rights Movement to bring equality to African Americans and other minorities. When she was just 16, she went on a tour with Dr. Martin Luther King. As she became more successful, she opened her heart and wallet to empower African-Americans. As a strong supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, she gave many concerts to give financial support to the cause of equality. When her good friend, Dr. Martin Luther King, died in 1968, she sang at his funeral.
One of the best years of Franklin’s career was 1967. Two of her hit songs were: “Respect” and “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman.” “Respect” became Aretha’s signature song as well as an anthem for equality and civil rights. Despite her rocky relationships, when Aretha sang, “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman,” she showed us her romantic side.
Dubbed as the Queen of Soul in the 1960s, Franklin certainly lived up to her name. Beyond being the Queen of Soul, she was a master who could conquer any musical genre. During a 1998 concert, Luciano Pavarotti was too sick with a sore throat to sing. They asked Franklin if she would take his place. When the soul singer appeared on stage, she was able to fill Pavarotti’s shoes very well. She sang with such bravado like a natural born opera singer. At that moment, she proved to the world that they had to bow to the queen.
Of course, she gave many other memorable performances. In 2009, she sang at President Obama’s inauguration. Her performance was heartfelt and emotional honoring the first African American President of the United States. With her beautiful voice, she showed that she was proud to be an American at that very special moment in history.
When Carole King received Kennedy Center Honors, Franklin sang the song that King co-wrote: “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman.” As for Carole King, the legendary songwriter, she was moved. The audience was also very inspired when Franklin sang her signature song. It was her powerful voice that made every single woman fell like a natural woman.
So natural in music as well as being a natural lady, the Queen of Soul passed away, at her home, on August 16, 2018 at the age of 76. After a brave and long battle with pancreatic cancer, she lost her life. Even though she is gone, her music will continue to inspire countless generations. Next year, Jennifer Hudson will play the role of Aretha Franklin in a film. Hudson, who was the runner up on American Idol, was chosen to play the challenging role by Franklin. There is no doubt that Hudson will do a great job portraying Aretha, but the world will only know one Aretha Franklin. No performer will ever be able to take her place.