Aretha Franklin began her career singing gospel at her father, minister C. L. Franklin’s church as a child. In 1960, at age 18, Franklin embarked on a secular career. Franklin achieved commercial acclaim and success to gain the title The Queen of Soul by the end of the 1960s decade.
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.
Chain of Fools (1968)
Say A Little Prayer (1971)
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.
Rock Steady (1973)
Twenty two minutes after she was asked to cover for her ailing friend, Luciano Pavarotti, Aretha Franklin takes the stage to perform the legendary aria Nessun Dorma, a piece she sang previously a few days earlier (in her own register, I might add), without changing Pavarotti’s key – which is no minor achievement. It begets one of the most extraordinary musical moments in awards show history. It brought the audience to a thunderous ovation.
Nessun Dorma (1989)
Aretha Franklin, who received an honorary degree at Harvard University’s 2014 Commencement, opened the Morning Exercises in Tercentenary Theatre with a rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner.
The Star-Spangled Banner (2014)
In 1987, Franklin was the first female performer inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Two years earlier, the Michigan government labeled her voice as a “natural resource”. Franklin received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1979.
In 1994, she received a medal from the Kennedy Center Honors and that year won the NARAS Lifetime Achievement Award. She won the NARAS Grammy Legend award four years prior. In 1999, she earned the National Medal of Arts. In 2005, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Franklin was inducted to the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005, becoming the second female performer to be honored after Madonna. In 2008, she received the MusiCares Person of the Year prior to performing at that year’s Grammys. That same year, she was listed in the top 20 of artists on the Billboard Hot 100 all-time top artists list.
In 2012, she was inducted to the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Franklin has been described as the voice of the civil rights movement, the voice of black America and a symbol of black equality. She was also listed as number 1 on Rolling Stone’s list of the Greatest Singers of All Time.