Born in 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee, Aretha was brought up in Detroit and her upbringing was steeped in the black gospel tradition and civil rights politics of that era.
Endowed American singer, talented musician and legendary Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, died in Detroit, Michigan, on August 16 at the age of 76. A statement from the family confirmed that the musical genius died of pancreatic cancer. Her death was a great loss to American and global music.
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Many world leaders and celebrities have paid glowing tributes to the late musical icon. To President Donald Trump, “She was a great woman, with a wonderful gift from God, her voice. She will be missed.” Former US President, Barack Obama, said: “Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade, our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace.”
Bill Clinton described the deceased as “one of America’s greatest treasures” and observed that “For more than 50 years, shestirredoursouls, she was elegant, graceful, utterly uncompromising in her artistry.” Sir Elton John described her death as “a blow for everybody who loves real music: music from the heart, the soul and the church. She was one of my favourite pianists as well as a great singer.”
Celine Dion said that Aretha Franklin was “the most soulful and inspirational singer of our time”, while to Sir Mick Jagger, “She was so inspiring and wherever you were she always brought you to church.” Adele said “I can’t remember a day of my life without Aretha Franklin’s voice filling up my heart with so much joy and sadness. Absolutely heartbroken, she’s gone, what a woman. Thank you for everything, the melodies and the movements.”
A former member of the Beatles, Paul McCartney, wrote: “Let’s all take a moment to give thanks for the beautiful life of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of our souls, who inspired us all for many, many years. She will be missed but the memory of her greatness as a musician and a fine human being will live with us forever.”
Born in 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee, Aretha was brought up in Detroit and her upbringing was steeped in the black gospel tradition and civil rights politics of that era. While her mother, Barbara Franklin, was a celebrated singer, his father, the Reverend C.L. Franklin, was a popular charismatic pastor.
Aretha began singing in the church and at 14 she launched her professional career as a gospel singer. She released her first album, Songs of Faith, in 1956. At 18, she shifted to secular music. Her major musical break came in 1967 with ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’ which became a Top 10 hit. She won her two Grammys in 1968 and graced the cover of Time magazine.
She recorded eight No 1 albums and 20 No.1 hits. She transformed Otis Redding’s ‘Respect’ into a demand for dignity in a turbulent America. With ‘Respect’, she became a symbol of black equality and an icon of the feminist movement. The song was later adapted as an anthem by African-Americans in the heights of the civil rights movements. ‘Respect’ and ‘I Say a Little Prayer’ made her famous. Some of her soul-stirring songs include ‘Spirit in the Dark’, ‘Freeway of Love’, ‘I knew You Were Waiting For Me’ and ‘A Rose Is Still A Rose.’
She won 18 Grammys in a career that spanned seven decades. Aretha sold over 75 million records worldwide. She was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. She performed at the presidential inaugurations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. She sang at the memorial service of Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr. She earned the number one spot on the Rolling Stone’s list of ‘100 Greatest Singers of all Time.’
Aretha Franklin was a great singer and pianist. She transformed soul music with her rich and expressive voice. She was committed to music and she devoted her entire life to it. No doubt, Aretha was endowed with a mellifluous voice she used to entertain the world. Her life shows that it is good to be steadfast in one’s calling. Her ‘Respect’ brought respect to womanhood. We join the rest of the world to commiserate with her family, the American people and the musical community over the irreparable loss. Goodbye, the Queen of Soul.