Happy Birthday Aretha Franklin: Performing At The 1971 Montreux Jazz Festival

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Today would have been the 76th birthday of Aretha Franklin. Born in Memphis, Tennessee on March 25, 1942, the Queen of Soul went on to be known as one of the greatest vocalists of our time.

Franklin’s music career started early, beginning as a child singing gospel at her father’s church in Detroit, Michigan. At the age of 18, she began her secular music career, eventually breaking through after signing with Atlantic Records in 1966. By the end of the decade, the singer earned the moniker of “The Queen of Soul,” becoming a standout voice with her signature song, a cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect,” and a stream of other hits including “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools” and “Think.”

In the decades following before her death last summer, Franklin would go on to become the most charted female artist in history, earning herself the title of one of the best-selling artists of all time. In her lifetime, she recorded 112 singles that charted on Billboard, spanning early tracks like “I Say A Little Prayer” to later work, like her collaboration with 1998 collaboration with Lauryn Hill, “A Rose Is Still A Rose.” Her popular success was matched by the immense critical praise of her music, as the talented vocalist earned 18 Grammy Awards throughout her long-spanning career, in addition to becoming the first female performer to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

However, Aretha was more than just a talented singer and performer. In addition to acting credits, such as her famed role in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers, Franklin immersed herself in the civil rights struggles of the 1970s and beyond. While her music lent a voice to the disenfranchised, she also leveraged her position to speak out on issues important to her, ranging from support of Native American rights to racial and gender equality. Such actions set her apart from other less politically motivated artists, eventually earning her a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

In celebration of the late vocalist, songwriter, actress, pianist and civil rights activist’s 76th birthday, we offer one of her iconic performance from the height of her career in 1971. The full video captures the Queen of Soul’s performance at Switzerland’s internationally renowned Montreux Jazz Festival. Taking place on June 12, 1971, the beloved singer worked through a number of her greatest hits at the time, in addition to timely covers ranging from Diana Ross’ “Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” to Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” The festival set highlights her captivating stage presence and awe-inspiring vocal prowess and finds Franklin supported by organist Truman Thomas, saxophonist King Curtis, bassist Jerry Jemmott, horn player Cornell Dupree and drummer Bernard Purdie.

Watch the clip below, courtesy of Good Music Lovers:

Setlist

Set: Respect, Natural Woman, I Say A Little Prayer For You, Call Me, Brand New Me, Share Your Love With Me, Don’t Play That Song, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Dr. Feel Good, Spirit In The Dark, Reach Out And Touch Somebody’s Hand