The “Queen Of Soul” and one of the most iconic and important voices in the history of recorded sound, the great Aretha Franklin, died on August 16th at age 76 near her home in Detroit. Rolling Stone posted a statement from her publicist Gwendolyn Quinn, which read, “It is with deep and profound sadness that we announce the passing of Aretha Louise Franklin, the Queen of Soul. Franklin passed away on Thursday morning, August 16th at 9:50 a.m. at her home in Detroit, MI, surrounded by family and loved ones. In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family. The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds. We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world. Thank you for your compassion and prayers. We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on. As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.”
Aretha Franklin remains the most charted female on the Billboard magazine lists, with a whopping 73 charting records. In 1987 Aretha became the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. To date, she has sold 75 million records globally, making her one of the best-selling singers in history. She won 18 Grammy Awards, earned Grammy Lifetime Achievement and a Grammy Living Legend Award. In 1994 she received the Kennedy Center Honor and in 2005 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
In honor of the Queen of Soul, TV One aired two special presentations last night (August 16th), TV One on One: Aretha Franklin and Aretha: Frankly Speaking. According to Bossip, the first program featured Urban One founder, Cathy Hughes, as she sat down with Franklin for a candid discussion about her life and journey throughout her lengthy career. The second program chronicled her professional career and personal life, as told through Franklin, her close friends, family and musical team. Both presentations will re-air on Saturday (August 18th) at 11 a.m. and 12 p.m., respectively.
Aretha, whose father was the Rev. C.L. Franklin, released over 75 albums of sermons and music, an active supporter of the N.A.A.C.P. and in the early-’60s and a close friend supporter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who he helped organize a 1963 civil rights march in Detroit shortly before Dr. King’s legendary march on Washington D.C.
Aretha Franklin will forever be remembered for such timeless hits as “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, “I Say A Little Prayer,” “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You),” “Spanish Harlem” “Think,” “Rock Steady”, “Jump To It”, “Who’s Zoomin’ Who”, “Chain Of Fools”, “Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)”, “Something He Can Feel”, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” — with George Michael, and “Freeway Of Love,” among countless others.
On February 14th, 1967 Aretha Franklin recorded her signature hit — a cover version of Otis Redding‘s “Respect.” She taped the song in Manhattan’s Atlantic Studios, playing piano on the track and using the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section — a group of four session musicians who mainly played sessions in Nashville and Muscle Shoals, Alabama, before later starting their own Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. It was Aretha’s idea to use the tape of King Curtis‘s sax solo from Sam & Dave‘s “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby,” — which was recorded the night before at Memphis’ Stax Studios — to create a new bridge to the song.
The song’s producer Tom Dowd recalled the session: “Aretha said she liked the song, and started running (through it), although Aretha’s sister Carolyn (Franklin) was instrumental in the tempo aspect of it, the way they did it with (the) ‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T’ lines. . . It just went by very easily.”
Aretha’s version of “Respect” debuted in the Billboard Top 40 on May 6th, 1967, and hit Number One on June 3rd, and then held down the top spot for two weeks. Apart from being a radio staple for nearly 50 years, the song has been featured in movies like Platoon, Forrest Gump, Mystic Pizza, and Back To School — as well as being used prominently on Candace Bergen‘s hit TV show Murphy Brown.
Pollstar reported: “Franklin sang ‘My Country Tis Of Thee’ at the first inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009, but perhaps her most unforgettable performance came during the 1998 Grammy Awards, when she stepped in at the last moment to perform Puccini’s classic ‘Turandot’ aria, ‘Nessum dora’ in the stead of an ailing Luciano Pavarotti. Of course, she nailed it. She was equally adept at less-highbrow appearances, thoroughly stealing a scene from John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in 1980’s The Blues Brothers movie with one of her signature hits, ‘Think.'”
Lenny Kravitz told us that the loss of Aretha Franklin bruises him on many different levels: [“I loved Aretha since I was a child. Jackson Five records, Aretha records — that was my education, and ‘The Queen Of Soul’ says it all, it’s absolutely true. And she’s actually in my Top Three (favorite) piano players — as a piano player, even if she didn’t open her mouth. . . And I got to sing with her at Madison Square Garden, talked to her on the phone, Y’know, we. . . she’d call me, I’d call her. . . Another blessing. Another person that I’m just blessed to know. The greatest. The greatest. The greatest. The greatest. I’m very sad.”] SOUNDCUE (:29 OC: . . . I’m very sad)
Frequent producer and good friend Narada Michael Walden told us that whether behind the boards in the studio or drumming for her onstage, Aretha Franklin always pushed him to a whole other level: [“I thought two halves; one as a songwriter-producer early on and then most recently playing drums with her. Like, I had that feeling on both sides of the fence. Y’know, in the studio she could push and really go for it, ’cause she loved to have fun — but on stage, she really liked us to play and we’d encourage her to sing and just do what she’s supposed to do. And she was like a real force that happened, man. A real force.”] SOUNDCUE (:20 OC . . . A real force)
Fellow Detroit legend Mitch Ryder first meet Aretha when he was still a teen in the early-’60s and was instantly astounded at the power and uniqueness of her voice: [“It was like going for a note effortlessly (laughs), indescribably beautiful notes and twists of melody without breakin’ a sweat. She could go an octave-and-a-half up in a split second — less than a split second. And most people would have to, y’know, rev their engines up to get on that starting line, but she just jumped.”] SOUNDCUE (:18 OC: . . . she just jumped)
During Aerosmith‘s Wednesday (August 15th) appearance on NBC’s Today, the band passed along its well wishes and Steven Tyler touched upon the importance of the “Queen Of Soul”:[“We cut a song (sings), ‘What you want/baby I need it’ — we got a chance to do that on our Honkin’ On Bobo album — and there was nobody like Aretha. Nobody. No one. I just went down to Muscle Shoals and did a song and I was in a room that she slept in because of what was going on back then. ‘Got all the history of it, and Aretha’s Aretha — she’s one of a kind.”] SOUNDCUE (:21 OC: . . . of a kind)