Aretha Louise Franklin was born in Memphis on March 25, 1942, to pastor C.L. Franklin and his wife Barbara. She was the fourth of five children in her family. Her father was a nationally recognized preacher during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and her mother was a gospel singer. Her parents separated by the time she was six, and her mother died four years later from a heart attack.
Aretha moved to Detroit with her father and began singing in his congregation. Her first recordings, made when she was 14, were gospel songs, released as the album Songs of Faith in 1956. In 1960, she moved to New York and signed with Columbia Records. Her self-titled album Aretha was released in 1961. Several of her best known songs came from her late ‘60s recordings, including “Respect,” “Think,” “I Say A Little Prayer,” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”
The Queen of Soul has won many awards over her six-decade career. In 1968, she was featured on the cover of Time magazine. In 1987, she was the first female to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and she has been named #1 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “Greatest Singers of All Time.” In 2005, she was the second ever female inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame. Aretha performed at the funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr. and at several presidential inaugurations, including those of Carter, Clinton, and Obama. She has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Aretha is also the first woman and only the fourth artist to have 100 singles included on the R&B charts. She has tried her hand at acting as well, being included in the Blues Brothers (1980) and Blues Brothers 2000 (1998) movies.
Aretha has four children and has been married and divorced twice. In 2010, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and is currently battling health issues.
We’re pleased to include in our “Timeless Favorites” playlist a number of Aretha’s most popular hits, songs that are indeed timeless in their appeal.
(biography.com; allmusic.com; arethafranklin.net)