Aretha Franklin Dead: Singer Dies at Age 76
Dan Clarendon, US Magazine – Aretha Franklin has died at age 76 following her long battle with cancer, the Associated Press announced on Thursday, August 16.
On Monday, August 13, a source told Us that Franklin was “comfortable at home” but “not doing well” and that her body was “breaking down.”
“[She] is hanging in there, but recovery is not looking likely,” the insider added.
Earlier that morning, Detroit’s WDIV-TV reported Franklin was “gravely ill” and asking for fans’ prayers. Later that morning, the NBC affiliate announced the singer was “resting and surrounded by close friends and family.”
Her ailments were never publicly disclosed, but in 2011 she denied that she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, as had been rumored at the time. Read the full story at US Magazine.
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“Being a singer is a natural gift. It means I’m using to the highest degree possible the gift that God gave me to use. I’m happy with that.”
In February of 2017, Franklin announced that she would stop touring, but she continued to book concerts.
“I sing to the realists; people who accept it like it is.”
Earlier this year, she canceled a pair of performances, including at the New Orleans Jazz Fest, on doctor’s orders, according to Rolling Stone.
Franklin’s career spans six decades. She got her start singing gospel music in a Detroit church where her father was the minister. In 1960, she signed with her first major record label.
“I always felt rock and roll was very, very wholesome music.”
By 1968, Franklin was an established soul chart-topper with hits like “Respect,” “Chain of Fools” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”
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Aretha Louise Franklin (born March 25, 1942) is an American singer and songwriter. Franklin began her career as a child singing gospel at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, where her father, C. L. Franklin, was the minister.
In 1960, at the age of 18, she embarked on a secular career, recording for Columbia Records but only achieving modest success.
Following her signing to Atlantic Records in 1967, Franklin achieved commercial acclaim and success with songs such as “Respect”, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, “Spanish Harlem” and “Think”. By the end of the 1960s, she had gained the title “The Queen of Soul”.
Franklin eventually recorded a total of 112 charted singles on Billboard, including 77 Hot 100 entries, 17 top ten pop singles, 100 R&B entries and twenty number-one R&B singles, becoming the most charted female artist in the chart’s history.
Franklin also recorded acclaimed albums such as I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, Lady Soul, Young, Gifted and Black and Amazing Grace before experiencing problems with her record company by the mid-1970s.
Signed with Arista Records
After her father was shot in 1979, Franklin left Atlantic and signed with Arista Records, finding success with her part in the film The Blues Brothers and with the albums Jump to It and Who’s Zoomin’ Who?. In 1998, Franklin won international acclaim for singing the opera aria “Nessun dorma”, at the Grammys of that year replacing Luciano Pavarotti.
Later that same year, she scored her final Top 40 recording with “A Rose Is Still a Rose”. Franklin’s other popular and well known hits include “Rock Steady”, “Jump to It”, “Freeway of Love”, “Who’s Zoomin’ Who”, “Chain Of Fools”, “Something He Can Feel”, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” (with George Michael), and a remake of The Rolling Stones song “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”.
Franklin has won a total of 18 Grammy Awards and is one of the best-selling musical artists of all time, having sold over 75 million records worldwide.
Franklin has been honored throughout her career including a 1987 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in which she became the first female performer to be inducted. She was inducted to the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. In August 2012, Franklin was inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
Franklin is listed in at least two all-time lists on Rolling Stone magazine, including the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time; and the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.
Aretha Louise Franklin was born at 406 Lucy Avenue, in Memphis, Tennessee, to Barbara (née Siggers) and Clarence LaVaughn “C. L.” Franklin. Her father was an itinerant preacher originally from Shelby, Mississippi, while her mother was an accomplished piano player and vocalist.
Alongside Franklin, her parents had three other children, and both C. L. and Barbara also had children from outside their marriage. The family relocated to Buffalo, New York when Franklin was two.
Before her fifth birthday, C. L. Franklin permanently relocated the family to Detroit, Michigan where he took over the pastorship of New Bethel Baptist Church. Franklin’s parents had a troubled marriage due to stories of C. L. Franklin’s philandering and in 1948, they separated, with Barbara relocating back to Buffalo with her son, Vaughn, from a previous relationship.
Contrary to popular notion, Franklin’s mother did not abandon her children; not only would Franklin recall seeing her mother in Buffalo during the summer, Barbara also frequently visited her children in Detroit.
Franklin’s mother died on March 7, 1952, before Franklin’s tenth birthday. Several women, including Franklin’s grandmother Rachel, and Mahalia Jackson took turns helping with the children at the Franklin home.
During this time, Franklin learned how to play piano by ear.
Franklin’s father’s emotionally driven sermons resulted in his being known as the man with the “million-dollar voice” and earning thousands of dollars for sermons in various churches across the country.
Franklin’s celebrity status led to his home being visited by various celebrities including gospel musicians Clara Ward, James Cleveland and early Caravans members Albertina Walker and Inez Andrews as well as Martin Luther King, Jr., Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke.
Franklin attended Northern High School but later dropped out during her sophomore year.
Just after her mother’s death, Franklin began singing solos at New Bethel, debuting with the hymn, “Jesus, Be a Fence Around Me”.
Four years later, when Franklin was 14, her father began managing her, bringing her on the road with him during his so-called “gospel caravan” tours for her to perform in various churches.
He helped his daughter get signed to her first recording deal with J.V.B. Records, where her first album, Songs of Faith, was issued in 1956.
Two singles were released to gospel radio stations including “Never Grow Old” and “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”. Franklin sometimes traveled with The Caravans and The Soul Stirrers during this time and developed a crush on Sam Cooke, who was then singing with the Soul Stirrers before his secular career.
Inspired by Sam Cooke
After turning 18, Franklin confided to her father that she aspired to follow Sam Cooke to record pop music. Serving as her manager, C. L. agreed to the move and helped to produce a two-song demo that soon was brought to the attention of Columbia Records, who agreed to sign her in 1960.
Franklin was signed as a “five-percent artist”. During this period, Franklin would be coached by choreographer Cholly Atkins to prepare for her pop performances.
Before signing with Columbia, Sam Cooke tried to persuade Franklin’s father to have his label, RCA sign Franklin. He had also been courted by local record label owner Berry Gordy to sign Franklin and her elder sister Erma to his Tamla label. Franklin’s father felt the label was not established enough yet.
Franklin’s first Columbia single, “Today I Sing the Blues”, was issued in September 1960 and later reached the top ten of the Hot Rhythm & Blues Sellers chart.
Initial success (1961–1966)
In January 1961, Columbia issued Franklin’s first secular album, Aretha: With The Ray Bryant Combo. The album featured her first single to chart the Billboard Hot 100, “Won’t Be Long”, which also peaked at number 7 on the R&B chart.
Mostly produced by Clyde Otis, Franklin’s Columbia recordings saw her recording in diverse genres such as standards, vocal jazz, blues, doo-wop and rhythm and blues.
Before the year was out, Franklin scored her first top 40 single with her rendition of the standard, “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody”, which also included the R&B hit, “Operation Heartbreak”, on its b-side. “Rock-a-Bye” became her first international hit, reaching the top 40 in Australia and Canada.
By the end of 1961, Franklin was named as a “new-star female vocalist” in Down Beat magazine. In 1962, Columbia issued two more albums, The Electrifying Aretha Franklin and The Tender, the Moving, the Swinging Aretha Franklin, the latter of which charted at number 69 on the Billboard Pop LPs chart.
By 1964, Franklin began recording more pop music, reaching the top ten on the R&B chart with the ballad, “Runnin’ Out of Fools” in early 1965. She had two R&B charted singles in 1965 and 1966 with the songs “One Step Ahead” and “Cry Like a Baby” while also reaching the Easy Listening charts with the ballads “You Made Me Love You” and “(No, No) I’m Losing You”.
By the mid-1960s, Franklin was netting $100,000 from countless performances in nightclubs and theaters. Also during that period, Franklin appeared on rock and roll shows such as Hollywood A Go-Go and Shindig!. However, it was argued that Franklin’s potential was neglected at the label. Columbia executive John H. Hammond later said he felt Columbia did not understand Franklin’s early gospel background and failed to bring that aspect out further during her Columbia period.
Commercial success (1967–1979)
In November 1966, choosing not to renew her Columbia contract after six years with the company, Franklin signed to Atlantic Records. In January 1967, she traveled to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to record at FAME Studios to record the song, “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” in front of the musicians of the famed Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.
The song was later issued that February and shot up to number-one on the R&B chart, while also peaking at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100, giving Franklin her first top ten pop single.
The song’s b-side, “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man”, reached the R&B top 40, peaking at number 37. In April, Atlantic issued her frenetic version of Otis Redding’s “Respect”, which shot to number-one on both the R&B and pop charts and later became her signature song and was later hailed as a civil rights and feminist anthem.
Franklin’s debut Atlantic album, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, also became commercially successful, later going gold. Franklin scored two more top ten singles in 1967 including “Baby I Love You” and “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman”. Franklin’s rapport with producer Jerry Wexler helped in the creation of the majority of Franklin’s peak recordings with Atlantic.
Earns her first Grammy
In 1968, she issued the top-selling albums, Lady Soul and Aretha Now, which included some of Franklin’s most popular hit singles including “Chain of Fools”, “Ain’t No Way”, “Think” and “I Say a Little Prayer”. In February 1968, Franklin earned the first two of her Grammys including the debut category for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
On February 16, 1968, Franklin was honored with a day in her honor and was greeted by longtime friend Martin Luther King, Jr. who gave her the SCLC Drum Beat Award for Musicians just two months before his death.
In June 1968, she appeared on the cover of Time magazine.
Franklin’s success expanded during the early 1970s in which she recorded top ten singles such as “Spanish Harlem”, “Rock Steady” and “Day Dreaming” as well as the acclaimed albums Spirit in the Dark, Young, Gifted & Black, and her gospel album, Amazing Grace, which sold over two million copies. In 1971, Franklin became the first R&B performer to headline Fillmore West, later releasing the live album Aretha Live at Fillmore West.
Franklin’s career began to experience problems while recording the album, Hey Now Hey, which featured production from Quincy Jones.
Despite the success of the single “Angel”, the album bombed upon its release in 1973. Franklin continued having R&B success with songs such as “Until You Come Back to Me” and “I’m in Love”, but by 1975 her albums and songs were no longer top sellers.
After Jerry Wexler left Atlantic for Warner Bros. Records in 1976, Franklin worked on the soundtrack to the film Sparkle with Curtis Mayfield. The album yielded Franklin’s final top 40 hit of the decade, “Something He Can Feel”, which also peaked at number-one on the R&B chart.
Franklin’s follow-up albums for Atlantic, including Sweet Passion, Almighty Fire and La Diva, bombed on the charts, and in 1979 Franklin opted to leave the company.
Later years (1980–present)
In 1980, after leaving Atlantic Records, Franklin signed with Clive Davis’ Arista Records and that same year gave a command performance at the Royal Albert Hall in front of Queen Elizabeth.
Franklin also made an acclaimed guest role as a waitress in the comedy musical, The Blues Brothers. Franklin’s first Arista album, Aretha, featured the No. 3 R&B hit, “United Together” and her Grammy-nominated cover of Otis Redding’s “I Can’t Turn You Loose”.
The follow-up, 1981’s Love All the Hurt Away, included her famed duet of the title track with George Benson while the album also included her Grammy-winning cover of Sam & Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Comin'”. Franklin returned to the Gold standard– for the first time in seven years– with the album, Jump to It. Its title track was her first top 40 single on the pop charts in six years.
In 1985, inspired by her desire to have a “younger sound” in her music, her fifth Arista album, Who’s Zoomin’ Who?, became her first album to be certified platinum, after selling well over a million copies, thanks to the hits, “Freeway of Love”, the title track and “Another Night”.
The following year’s Aretha album nearly matched this success with the hit singles “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, “Jimmy Lee” and “I Knew You Were Waiting for Me”, her international number-one duet with George Michael. During that period, Franklin provided vocals to the theme songs of the shows, A Different World and Together.
In 1987, she issued her third gospel album, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, which was recorded at her late father’s New Bethel church, followed by Through the Storm in 1989. Franklin’s 1991 album, What You See is What You Sweat, flopped on the charts.
Franklin returned to the charts in 1993 with the dance song “A Deeper Love” and returned to the top 40 with the song “Willing to Forgive” in 1994.
In 1998, Franklin returned to the top 40 with the Lauryn Hill-produced song, “A Rose Is Still a Rose”, later issuing the album of the same name, which went gold.
That same year, Franklin earned international acclaim for her performance of “Nessun Dorma” at the Grammy Awards. Her final Arista album, So Damn Happy, was released in 2003 and featured the Grammy-winning song, “Wonderful”.
In 2004, Franklin announced that she was leaving Arista after over 20 years with the label. To complete her Arista obligations, Franklin issued the duets compilation album, Jewels in the Crown: All-Star Duets with the Queen, in 2007. The following year, she issued the holiday album, This Christmas, Aretha, on DMI Records.
Franklin performed The Star Spangled Banner with Aaron Neville and Dr. John for Super Bowl XL, held in her hometown of Detroit in February 2006.
She later made international headlines for performing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” at President Barack Obama’s inaugural ceremony with her church hat becoming a popular topic online. In 2010, Franklin accepted an honorary degree from Yale University.
In 2011, under her own label, Aretha’s Records, she issued the album, Aretha: A Woman Falling Out Of Love.
As of 2014, Franklin is now signed under RCA Records, controller of the Arista catalog and a sister label to Columbia via Sony Music Entertainment, and is currently working again with Clive Davis. A new album is in the works with producers Babyface and Danger Mouse planning to work with Franklin.
Standing ovation on Letterman show
On September 29, 2014, Franklin performed to a standing ovation, with Cissy Houston as backup, a compilation of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” on the Late Show with David Letterman.
Franklin’s cover of “Rolling in the Deep” would be featured among nine other songs in her first RCA release, Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics, released on October 21, 2014.
In October 2014, Franklin became the first woman to have 100 songs on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart with the success of her cover of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”, which debuted at number 47 on the chart.
Franklin, waiting to perform at the White House in 2015
In December 2015, Franklin gave an acclaimed performance of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors during the section for honoree Carole King, who co-wrote the song.
During the bridge of the song, Ms. Franklin dropped her fur coat to the stage, for which the audience rewarded her with a mid-performance standing ovation.
She returned to Detroit’s Ford Field on Thanksgiving Day 2016 to once again perform the national anthem before the game between the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions.
Seated behind the piano in a black fur coat and Lions stocking cap, this rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner lasted over four minutes and featured a host of improvisations by Franklin.
Franklin released the album A Brand New Me in November 2017 with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which uses archived recordings from her past. It peaked at #5 on the Billboard Top Classical Albums chart.
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