A gifted singer and pianist, Aretha Franklin toured with her father's traveling revival show and later visited New York, where she signed with Columbia Records. Franklin went on to release several popular singles, many of which are now considered classics. In 1987 she became the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 2008 she won her 18th Grammy Award, making her one of the most honored artists in Grammy history.
Franklin’s mother, Barbara, was a gospel singer and pianist. Her father, C.L. Franklin, presided over the New Bethel Baptist Church of Detroit, Michigan, and was a minister of national influence. A singer himself, he was noted for his brilliant sermons, many of which were recorded by Chess Records. Her parents separated when she was six, and Franklin remained with her father in Detroit. Her mother died when Aretha was 10. As a young teen, Franklin performed with her father on his gospel programs in major cities throughout the country and was recognized as a vocal prodigy. Her central influence, Clara Ward of the renowned Ward Singers, was a family friend. Other gospel greats of the day—Albertina Walker and Jackie Verdell—helped shape young Franklin’s style. Her album The Gospel Sound of Aretha Franklin (1956) captures the electricity of her performances as a 14-year-old.
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At the age of 14, Franklin’s talent for singing was recognized by her father who started managing her, to get her a recording deal. In 1956, her first album, Songs of Faith, came out under J. V. B. Records label.
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In 1960, Franklin was signed by Columbia Records, after she persuaded her father to let her record pop music. Her popular single ‘Today I Sing the Blues’ was released in the same year - it reached the Hot Rhythm & Blue Sellers Chart.
In 1961, Franklin’s debut pop album came out with Columbia Records, titled ‘Aretha: With The Ray Bryant Combo’. The album was an instant hit with the American listeners and the hit single ‘Rock-a-bye’ catapulted her into an international star.
In 1962, the same recording company released two of her albums: ‘The Electrifying Aretha Franklin’ and ‘The Tender, the Moving, the Swinging Aretha Franklin’. By this time, she was called the ‘new-star female vocalist’ by A-list magazines. From 1964-1966, Franklin released various hit singles like: ‘Runnin’ Out of Fools’, ‘One Step Ahead’, ‘Cry Like a Baby’, ‘You Made Me Love You’, etc. under Columbia Records. She also appeared on shows like Hollywood A Go-Go.
In 1967, Aretha singed to Atlantic Records and released ‘I Never Love a Man the Way I Love You’ which topped the R&B chart and the Billboard Hot 100 with hit singles like: ‘Do Right Woman, Do Right man’, ‘Respect’, etc.
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In 1968, she released her albums: ‘Lady Soul’ and ‘Aretha Now’ with Atlantic Records, giving hit singles like: ‘I say a Little Prayer’, ‘Think’, etc. She also received two Grammys and SCLC Drum Beat Award for Musicians.
In the 1970s, Franklin released albums like ‘Spirit in the Dark’, ‘Young, Gifted & Black’, ‘Hey Now Hey’, ‘You’, ‘Sweet Passion’ etc. She also released her first gospel album, titled ‘Amazing Grace’ during the same time.
During the same years, she recorded her first live album ‘Aretha Live at Fillmore West’. She gave out hit singles like: ‘Angel’, ‘Until You Come Back to Me’, ‘I’m in Love’, etc. She also worked on the soundtrack of the movie ‘Sparkle’.
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In 1980, she signed with Arista Records and gave a memorable performance for the Queen of England at the Royal Albert Hall. She also did a cameo in the musical ‘The Blues Brothers’ in the same year.
During the same time, ‘Aretha’ was released. She got nominated for a Grammy for one of the singles from the album ‘I can’t Turn You Loose’. A hit single ‘United Together’ made it to number 3 on the R&B chart.
In 1981, Franklin released her album ‘Love All the Hurt Away’. The album included her famous duet with George Benson ‘Hold On, I’m Comin’, which eventually fetched her a Grammy. It was her 11th Grammy so far.
In 1985, ‘Jump to It’ was released. It was a Gold standard album and a huge commercial hit after almost 7 years. The single from the album, with the same title, ranked first on ‘top 40 singles on the pop charts’.
In 1985, she released ‘Who’s Zoomin’ Who’, which became her first platinum album and sold over a million copies. It included the hit singles like ‘Freeway of Love’ and ‘Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves’.
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In 1987, she released another gospel album, titled ‘One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism’, which was followed by another one ‘Through the Storm’. Around the same time her album ‘What You See is What You Sweat’ was released.
In 1998, her album ‘A Rose Is Still a Rose’ was released, which turned out to be of Gold standard. During the same time, Franklin gave a performance at the Grammy Awards, singing ‘Nessun Dorma’ and received international acclaim for it.
From 2004-2009, Franklin released albums like: ‘So Damn Happy’, ‘Jewels in the Crown: All-Star Duets with the Queen’ and ‘This Christmas ‘Tis of Thee’. She also performed at President Barack Obama’s inaugural ceremony.
From 2010-2013, she recorded an album under her own label, ‘Aretha: A Woman Falling Out of Love’. She was honored by a degree from Yale University. She is now working under RCA Records.
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Franklin was the winner of 18 Grammy Awards; she received these awards between the period of 1968-2008, for hit singles like: ‘Respect’, ‘Don’t Play That Song’, ‘Freeway of Love’, ‘Wonderful’, ‘A House is Not A Home’, ‘Chain of Fools’, etc.
She was the winner of 3 American Music Awards in the category of ‘Favorite Soul/R&B Female Artist’, in between the years 1976-1983. She was also the first female artist ever to have been inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.