R.I.P. Artistic Genius and Musical Legend Aretha Franklin, 76, Forever the Queen of Soul

(photo via arethafranklin.net)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to nytimes.com, American singer, pianist, and composer Aretha Franklin died at her home in Detroit surrounded by family and loved ones at the age of 76. The cause was advanced pancreatic cancer. She is survived by her four sons, Ted White Jr., Kecalf Cunningham, Clarence Franklin, and Edward Franklin.

Franklin, who began her unparalleled music career singing at her father Rev. C.L. Franklin‘s New Bethel Baptist Church, became an international superstar and chart-topper in the 1960s with such classic songs as “Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You,” “Chain of Fools,” “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “Respect,” and again in the 1980 and 1990s with “Jump To It,” “Freeway of Love,” “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me,” “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” and “A Rose Is Still A Rose.” Franklin was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, won 18 competitive Grammys across multiple decades, was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1994, recipient of the National Medal of Arts in 1999, and was bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

Aretha was also involved in civil rights activism and philanthropy during her lifetime. Franklin, who Elle Magazine noted had it written into her contract in the 1960s that she would never perform for a segregated audience, was glad that the song “Respect” became linked to feminist and civil-rights movements. She added that the line “you know I’ve got it” has a direct feminist theme. “As women, we do have it,” Franklin said. “We have the power. We are very resourceful. Women absolutely deserve respect. I think women and children and older people are the three least-respected groups in our society.”

According to Vanity Fair, though Franklin didn’t participate in civil disobedience herself, she lent very public support to at least one person who did. In 1970, famous feminist activist, scholar, and a then-avowed member of the Communist Party Angela Davis was arrested at the Howard Johnson Motor Lodge in Midtown Manhattan and incarcerated for 16 months for what were found to be wrongful kidnapping and murder charges. Jet magazine reported that Franklin was ready to cover Davis’s bond, “whether it was $100,000 or $250,000.” Davis was released on bail and cleared of her charges in 1972.

Locally, Aretha donated meals and hotel rooms to Flint residents at the onset of the city’s water crisis, last year she was honored with the dedication of Aretha Franklin Way in Detroit, and worked to renew and revitalize her hometown with projects and concerts.

To read more about Franklin’s life and music, coverage from the Detroit Free Press, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. To witness a touch of her genius, click below:

5 thoughts on “R.I.P. Artistic Genius and Musical Legend Aretha Franklin, 76, Forever the Queen of Soul”

  1. One of the greatest singers ever.I love the fact Chris Stapleton who probably is the only contemporary vocalist who had the chops to truly honor Aretha.I Say a Little Prayer for you,Aretha

  2. It’s been 24 hours now; every accolade that can be given for Aretha “ReRe” Franklin has been given. All I can say is her voice was and is a soundtrack for this particular life, from the time I saw her at the Regal as a child up to her last televised performances – Aretha was a once-in-a-lifetime song stylist, bringing people to tears or ecstasy at will with that voice. Her body of work will help keep that standard high for those who really are trying to maintain an art form and not just making noise. God rest her soul.

  3. Some losses hit you harder than others and although I knew her health was failing the news this morning rattled me. I canceled my dinner date because I just wanted to stay home & listen to her music. I grew up in the 1960s listening to those incomparable Atlantic records. The first time my mom let me use the stereo I put on every Aretha single she had. All through college I played her greatest hits. It’s like she was a member of the family. Three years ago, I saw her at the 92 Street Y talking about her new CD with Clive Davis. My mom had dementia and in 2015, I took her to the doctor. We were in the waiting room and Respect came on the radio. She started to nod her head and I asked if she remembered the song. She said no and asked if it was new. I was down trodden that she didn’t remember and just said no its 50 years old. But now I look back and realize that even though she didn’t remember the song anymore it still moved her to nod her head to the song. That was Aretha. You didn’t just listen to her. You felt her. She will be missed but never forgotten.

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