Aretha Franklin Unisex T-Shirt
Finally, a way to show your respect for some of the greatest icons, legends and pioneers that paved the way past and present. Rock this gear in style and bring back the moments that made you, memories they gave you and/or lessons they taught you. Scroll down for a history lesson with some of our favorite clips.
Welcome to the Respect Due family Aretha Franklin! We salute you.
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Aretha Franklin – Queen of Soul, Documentary # 1
Aretha Louise Franklin (/əriːθə/; March 25, 1942 – August 16, 2018) was an American singer, songwriter, and pianist. Referred to as the “Queen of Soul“, she has twice been placed 9th in Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Franklin began her career as a child, singing gospel at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, where her father C. L. Franklin was a minister.
At the age of 18, she embarked on a music career as a recording artist for Columbia Records. While her career did not immediately flourish, she found acclaim and commercial success once she signed with Atlantic Records in 1966. Her commercial hits such as “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)“, “Respect“, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman“, “Chain of Fools“, “Think” and “I Say a Little Prayer” propelled her past her musical peers.
Franklin continued to record acclaimed albums such as I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (1967), Lady Soul (1968), Spirit in the Dark (1970), Young, Gifted and Black (1972), Amazing Grace (1972), and Sparkle (1976), before experiencing problems with her record company. She left Atlantic in 1979 and signed with Arista Records. She appeared in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers before releasing the successful albums Jump to It (1982), Who’s Zoomin’ Who? (1985), and Aretha (1986) on the Arista label. In 1998, Franklin returned to the Top 40 with the Lauryn Hill-produced song “A Rose Is Still a Rose“; later, she released an album of the same name, which was certified gold.
Franklin recorded 112 charted singles on Billboard, including 73 Hot 100 entries, 17 top-ten pop singles, 100 R&B entries, and 20 number-one R&B singles. Besides the foregoing, Franklin’s well-known hits also include “Ain’t No Way“, “Call Me“, “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)“, “Spanish Harlem“, “Rock Steady“, “Day Dreaming“, “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)“, “Something He Can Feel“, “Jump to It“, “Freeway of Love“, “Who’s Zoomin’ Who“, and “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” (a duet with George Michael). She won 18 Grammy Awards, including the first eight awards given for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance (1968–1975) and a Grammy Awards Living Legend honor and Lifetime Achievement Award. Franklin is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 75 million records worldwide.
Franklin received numerous honors throughout her career. She was awarded the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1987, she became the first female performer to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She also was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005 and into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2012. In 2010, Rolling Stone magazine ranked her number one on its list of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time” and number nine on its list of “100 Greatest Artists of All Time“. The Pulitzer Prize jury in 2019 awarded Franklin a posthumous special citation “for her indelible contribution to American music and culture for more than five decades”. In 2020, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Aretha Franklin – Close Up (1968) | A Must See
Just after her mother’s death, Franklin began singing solos at New Bethel, debuting with the hymn “Jesus, Be a Fence Around Me”. When Franklin was 12, her father began managing her; he would take her on the road with him, during his so-called “gospel caravan” tours for her to perform in various churches. He also helped her sign her first recording deal with J.V.B. Records. Recording equipment was installed inside New Bethel Baptist Church and nine tracks were recorded. Franklin was featured on vocals and piano. In 1956, J.V.B. released Franklin’s first single, “Never Grow Old”, backed with “You Grow Closer”. “Precious Lord (Part One)” backed with “Precious Lord (Part Two)” followed in 1959. These four tracks, with the addition of “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood”, were released on side one of the 1956 album, Spirituals. This was reissued by Battle Records in 1962, under the same title. In 1965, Checker Records released Songs of Faith, featuring the five tracks from the 1956 Spirituals album, with the addition of four previously unreleased recordings. Aretha was only 14 when Songs of Faith was recorded.
During this time, Franklin would occasionally travel with The Soul Stirrers. As a young gospel singer, Franklin spent summers on the gospel circuit in Chicago and stayed with Mavis Staples‘ family. According to music producer Quincy Jones, while Franklin was still young, Dinah Washington let him know that “Aretha was the ‘next one'”.
Franklin and her father traveled to California, where she met singer Sam Cooke. At the age of 16, Franklin went on tour with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and she would ultimately sing at his funeral in 1968. Other influences in her youth included Marvin Gaye (who was a boyfriend of her sister), as well as Ray Charles and Sam Cooke, “two of Franklin’s greatest influences”. Also important was James Cleveland, known as the King of Gospel music, “who helped to focus her early career as a gospel singer”; Cleveland had been recruited by her father as a pianist for the Southern California Community Choir.
1960–1966: Columbia years
After turning 18, Franklin confided to her father that she aspired to follow Sam Cooke in recording pop music, and moved to New York. Serving as her manager, C. L. Franklin 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, 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 sign her with his label, RCA, but his request was denied since she had decided to go with Columbia. Record label owner Berry Gordy had also asked Franklin and her elder sister Erma to sign with his Tamla label. However, C.L. Franklin felt the label was not yet established enough, and he turned Gordy down. Franklin’s first Columbia single, “Today I Sing the Blues“, was issued in September 1960 and later reached the top 10 of the Hot Rhythm & Blues Sellers chart.
In January 1961, Columbia issued Franklin’s first 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 performing in diverse genres, such as standards, vocal jazz, blues, doo-wop and rhythm and blues. Before the year was out, Franklin scored her first with her hit-single rendition of the standard “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody“. By the end of 1961, Franklin was named as a “new-star female vocalist” in DownBeat 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 reached number 69 on the Billboard chart.
In the 1960s, during a performance at the Regal Theater in Chicago, WVON radio personality Pervis Spann announced that Franklin should be crowned “the Queen of Soul”. Spann ceremonially placed a crown on her head. By 1964, Franklin began recording more pop music, reaching the top 10 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 making $100,000 per year from countless performances in nightclubs and theaters. Also during that period, she appeared on rock-and-roll shows, such as Hollywood a Go-Go and Shindig! However, she struggled with commercial success while at Columbia. Label 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 period there.
1966–1979: Atlantic years
Franklin in 1967
In November 1966, Franklin’s Columbia recording contract expired; at that time, she owed the company money because record sales had not met expectations.
Producer Jerry Wexler convinced her to move to Atlantic Records. Wexler decided that he wanted to take advantage of her gospel background; his philosophy in general was to encourage a “tenacious form of rhythm & blues that became increasingly identified as soul. The Atlantic days would lead to a series of hits for Aretha Franklin from 1967 to early 1972; her rapport with Wexler helped in the creation of the majority of her peak recordings with Atlantic. The next seven years’ achievements were less impressive. However, according to Rolling Stone, “they weren’t as terrible as some claimed, they were pro forma and never reached for new heights”.
In January 1967, Franklin traveled to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to record at FAME Studios and recorded the song “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)“, backed by the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Franklin only spent one day recording at FAME, as an altercation broke out between her manager and husband Ted White, studio owner Rick Hall, and a horn player, and sessions were abandoned. The song was released the following month and reached 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. “Respect” was Otis Redding‘s song but Aretha modified it with a “supercharged interlude featuring the emphatic spelling-out of the song’s title”. Her frenetic version was released in April and reached number one on both the R&B and pop charts. “Respect” became her signature song and was later hailed as a civil rights and feminist anthem. Upon hearing her version, Otis Redding said admiringly: “That little girl done took my song away from me.” Franklin’s debut Atlantic album, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, also became commercially successful, later going gold. According to National Geographic, this recording “would catapult Franklin to fame”. Franklin scored two additional top-ten singles in 1967, “Baby I Love You” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman“.
Working with Wexler and Atlantic, Franklin had become “the most successful singer in the nation” by 1968. In 1968, Franklin issued the top-selling albums Lady Soul and Aretha Now, which included some of her most popular hit singles, including “Chain of Fools“, “Ain’t No Way“, “Think“, and “I Say a Little Prayer“. That February, Franklin earned the first two of her Grammys, including the debut category for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. On February 16, Franklin was honored with a day named for her and was greeted by longtime friend Martin Luther King Jr., who gave her the SCLC Drum Beat Award for Musicians two months before his death. Franklin toured outside the US for the first time in May, including an appearance at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, where she played to a near-hysterical audience who covered the stage with flower petals. She appeared on the cover of Time magazine in June.
In March 1969, Franklin was unanimously voted winner of Académie du Jazz‘s R&B award, Prix Otis Redding, for her albums Lady Soul, Aretha Now, and Aretha in Paris. That year, Franklin was the subject of a criminal impersonation scheme. Another woman performed at several Florida venues under the name Aretha Franklin. Suspicion was drawn when the fake Franklin charged only a fraction of the expected rate to perform. Franklin’s lawyers contacted Florida authorities and uncovered a coercive scheme in which the singer, Vickie Jones, had been threatened with violence and constrained into impersonating her idol, whom she resembled closely both in voice and looks. After being cleared of wrongdoing, Jones subsequently enjoyed a brief career of her own, during which she was herself the subject of an impersonation.
Franklin’s success expanded during the early 1970s, during which she recorded the multi-week R&B number one “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)“, as well as the top-ten singles “Spanish Harlem“, “Rock Steady“, and “Day Dreaming“. Some of these releases were from the acclaimed albums Spirit in the Dark and Young, Gifted and Black. In 1971, Franklin became the first R&B performer to headline Fillmore West, later that year releasing the live album Aretha Live at Fillmore West.
In January 1972, she returned to Gospel music in a two-night, live-church recording, with the album Amazing Grace, in which she reinterpreted standards such as Mahalia Jackson’s “How I Got Over“. Originally released in June 1972, Amazing Grace sold more than two million copies, and is one of best-selling gospel albums of all time. The live performances were filmed for a concert film directed by Sydney Pollack, but due to synching problems and Franklin’s own attempts to prevent the film’s distribution after Hollywood refused to promote a dark-skinned black woman as a movie star at the time, the film’s release was only realized by producer Alan Elliott in November 2018.
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 (1977), Almighty Fire (1978) and La Diva (1979), bombed on the charts, and in 1979 Franklin left the company. On November 7, 1979, she guested The Mike Douglas Show with her yellow costume from her La Diva album, and sang “Ladies Only”, “What If I Should Ever Need You” and “Yesterday” by The Beatles.
Aretha Franklin’s musical genius in 2 songs
Aretha Franklin – Ain’t No Way 
Aretha Franklin – I Say A Little Prayer: her very best performance!
Aretha Franklin, Soul Sister Full Documentary (2020)
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