‘Queen Of Soul’ Aretha Franklin 1942 – 2018
One of the world’s greatest voices passed away, as Aretha Franklin died on Thursday at age 76 in her current hometown of Detroit. The “Queen Of Soul’s” death was confirmed by Aretha’s publicist. “Franklin’s official cause of death was due to advance pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin’s oncologist, Dr. Philip Phillips of Karmanos Cancer Institute,” reads a statement from the family issued by publicist Gwendolyn Quinn to the Associated Press. “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,” the family’s statement continued.
Aretha Louise Franklin was born in Memphis, Tennessee on March 25, 1942. The Franklins soon moved to Detroit, where Aretha honed her chops singing at the New Bethel Baptist Church – her father’s ministry. Columbia Records noted her talent and signed her as an 18-year-old, but it wasn’t until a move to Atlantic Records in 1967 that she achieved commercial success. Under founder Ahmet Ertegun’s tutelage, Franklin recorded a string of hit singles and albums including a cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect” that would become her signature song. “Chain Of Fools,” “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You),” “I Say A Little Prayer” and “Think” are just a few of her best-known singles from Franklin’s late-’60s heyday.
However, Aretha was more than just a studio singer. Franklin was known for displaying her awe-inspiring pipes live in concert. Aretha Live At Fillmore West features Franklin backed by King Curtis’ band the Kingpins including Cornell Dupree on guitar, drummer Bernard Purdie and keyboardist Billy Preston. She also shows off her skills as a pianist on the record which contains the Franklin-penned gem “Dr. Feelgood” in addition to plenty of covers such as “Respect,” Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles.
A whole new generation of fans were introduced to Aretha’s music by a string of hits in the 1980s. The 1985 album Who’s Zoomin’ Who?, Franklin’s 33rd studio album, included the Top 40 radio staple “Freeway Of Love” which topped Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for five weeks and scored the vocalist a Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. It was also her first Platinum-certified record. The follow-up Aretha contained her smash hit duet with George Michael “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” and hits “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Jimmy Lee” and “Rock-A-Lott.” Aretha’s cover was created by Andy Warhol, his final work before his death one year later.
The last 30 years saw Franklin collaborate with musicians of all ages, tour regularly and receive awards from seemingly every corner of the music world and beyond, including receipt of the Presidental Medal Of Freedom in 2005. The list of honors bestowed on Franklin is incomparable. Aretha was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame as part of 1987’s sophomore class and was the first female inductee. She scored 112 charted singles on Billboard including 77 Hot 100 entries, 17 Top 10 pop singles, 100 R&B entries and 20 No. 1 R&B singles as per Wikipedia. Aretha also won 18 Grammy Awards, stands as one of the best-selling musical artists of all-time and was inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall Of Fame and UK Music Hall Of Fame. Rolling Stone named Aretha the ninth greatest artist of all-time and picked her to top the list of the greatest singers of all-time.
Aretha Franklin performed regularly through her retirement from the road in 2017. Franklin was booked for this year’s New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and a concert in Newark, but canceled “under doctor’s orders.” The vocalist’s last public performance took place at The Mann in Philadelphia on August 26, 2017. She went on to sing at a private fundraiser held for Elton John’s AIDS Foundation at New York City’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine in November. JamBase sends its thoughts and condolences to Franklin’s family.