There are some voices you just know when you hear them, singers who are truly gifted, once in a lifetime talents. Aretha Franklin was one of those people. Her Rolling Stone biography puts it perfectly: “Aretha Franklin is not only the definitive female soul singer of the Sixties, she’s also one of the most influential and important voices in pop history.”
Today, at the age of 76, Franklin passed away among friends and family at her home in Detroit. Franklin had been battling advanced pancreatic cancer.
Known as the Queen of Soul, Franklin was perhaps most famous for a string of hits through the peak of her career in the mid-1960s to late 1970s, including “Respect,” “Think,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” and more than two dozen others.
If you grew up as a child of the 1980s you may have discovered Franklin, not on a turntable, but as part of the star-studded “Blues Brothers” movie.
The daughter of a reverend, Franklin grew up singing gospel at his New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. She first burst onto the music scene as a teenager, but it was her move from Columbia to Atlantic Records at the age of 25 in 1967 that really introduced the world to her sound.
Over the course of her long music career, Franklin recorded 112 Billboard-charted songs, more than any other female artist in Billboard history. She was also the first woman admitted to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, and sang at the inauguration of three separate presidents.
Franklin was not only a music legend, but also an active voice in the African-American community, even marching with Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s. She toured with King for a short time and sang at King’s funeral in 1968.
Measuring the impact of a legend like Franklin is perhaps easiest to experience by seeing the response from other legendary musicians. None other than Sir Paul McCartney was quick to jump on Twitter and send out a note expressing his appreciation of her talent and contribution to the music industry.
Let’s all take a moment to give thanks for the beautiful life of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of our souls, who inspired us all for many many years. She will be missed but the memory of her greatness as a musician and a fine human being will live with us forever. Love Paul pic.twitter.com/jW4Gpwfdts
— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) August 16, 2018
Music icon Elton John also took to Twitter to mourn Franklin’s passing, noting that her skills as a piano player were “underrated.”
The loss of @ArethaFranklin is a blow for everybody who loves real music: Music from the heart, the soul and the Church. Her voice was unique, her piano playing underrated – she was one of my favourite pianists. pic.twitter.com/ug5oZYywAz
— Elton John (@eltonofficial) August 16, 2018
Music production legend Clive Davis, who worked with Franklin throughout her career, called her passing “absolutely devastating.” He said, “She was truly one of a kind. She was more than the Queen of Soul. She was a national treasure to be cherished by every generation throughout the world.”
The world probably knew Franklin most for standing on stage and singing R-E-S-P-E-C-T. As we look back at her long career, there is nothing but respect for her immense talent, unique voice, and incredible influence. She will be missed. Rest in peace, Aretha.