Aretha Franklin (1942–), singer, pianist, and songwriter, earned the title “Queen of Soul” early in her career, and has a musical career that spans over fifty years. Her music incorporates gospel, jazz, blues, pop, and funk. She began singing blues in the 1960s, and in 1967 two of her albums sold more than a million copies each. At age fourteen, Franklin left school and went on the road with her father, a seemingly endless tour in which the family traveled thousands of miles by car. After four years on the road, Franklin traveled to New York to establish her own career as a pop artist. In 1960 she signed with Columbia Records and in 1966 moved to Atlantic Records. Two of her well-known hits were released the next year: “I Never Loved a Man (The Way That I Love You),” and her signature piece, “Respect.” Other well-known pieces that she has recorded are “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” and “Chain of Fools.” In 1986 Franklin became the first black woman selected for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum. In 2005 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor. She has won twenty Grammy awards. Franklin sang at the inauguration of President Barack Obama in January 2009, and when Oprah Winfrey ended her television show Oprah in May 2011, she sang at the television mogul’s twenty-five-year celebration. Franklin was inducted into the Grammy Music Association Hall of Fame in 2012. Born in Memphis, Franklin is the daughter of the famous Reverend Charles L. Franklin. She grew up on the east side of Detroit and sang at her father’s New Bethel Baptist Church. She refused to learn what she considered juvenile and simple tunes and learned piano by ear, occasionally receiving instruction from individuals like the Reverend James Cleveland. Her singing skills were modeled after gospel singers and family friends, including Clara Ward, and R&B artists like Ruth Brown and Sam Cooke.
The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin is a megastar with numerous smash hits, including “Respect” and “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.”