By; Dave (DOS) O’Sullivan
The often imitated but never equaled, the queen of Soul Aretha Franklin has passed away peacefully at her home in Detroit, Michigan earlier today.
Born Aretha Louise Franklin in Memphis, Tennessee on March 25th, 1942, one of three daughters of Clarence LeVaughn Franklin and Barbara Siggers Franklin, the singer, songwriter, and pianist began her illustrious career as a child singing in the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit where her father was a minister. In 1960 aged 18 she began her secular music career signing with Columbia Records but only being modestly successful.
It was in 1967 after she joined Atlantic under the guidance of Jerry Wexler who is credited with inventing the term “rhythm and blues” and combined her talent with this style of music to forge what was an amazing career. Wexler to her to Muscle Shoals studios where she recorded seven top ten hits in a row including Respect and Chain of Fools. She was an active campaigner for the civil rights movement and toured with Martin Luther King, performing in churches and a rally for the cause she was firmly behind.
Married twice and the mother of four children the first of which she had at age 12, she would go on to sell 75 million records across 41 albums and 20 number one R and B singles. She performed for Kings, Queens and Presidents including the inaugurations of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.
She was nominated for 44 Grammys and won 18 and was the first female inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. In 2014 she was granted an Honorary Doctorate in Arts from Harvard University for her contribution to music.
She had weight issues for many years and was a chronic smoker and battled alcoholism. When she finally quit smoking she developed diabetes and finally pancreatic cancer which would ultimately end her life. Her last performance was on November 17th, 2017 at a benefit for the Elton Johns AIDS Foundation.
Her legacy looms large over American music and an all-star tribute concert to celebrate her life and music is scheduled for November 14th at Madison Square Garden in New York.