Remembering Aretha Franklin, gone at 76
According to reports across the newswires, R&B icon Aretha Franklin, the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, has died early this morning at the age of 76 after succumbing to a short battle with pancreatic cancer.
Franklin canceled two concerts in March and April 2018, citing doctors’ orders, this coming after the announcement in February 2017 that she planned to retire from performing by the end of that year. Her last public performance was at Elton John’s annual AIDS benefit gala in November of ’17.
Known simply as Aretha, Ms. Franklin has been performing since the early 1950s when she sang in the gospel choir at her father C.L. Franklin’s New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, MI. By 1960, she signed with Columbia Records, kicking off a secular career that, once she moved to Atlantic Records in 1967, took off like wildfire. Among her countless hits during this time are now considered certified soul classics, including “Respect”–her turning the tables on the machismo in the Otis Redding original remains an incredibly powerful feminist statement 51 years later– “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools,” “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” and “Think.” She sang “My Precious Lord” at the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was a close friend of the Franklin family.
Her reign continued into the 70s with classic LPs like 1973’s Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky) and 1976’s Sparkle, as well as No. 1 hits like 1974’s “I’m In Love” and “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” from ’76. But it wasn’t until the 1980s that Franklin enjoyed some of her greatest success, starting with her memorable appearance in 1980’s The Blues Brothers and then, upon signing to Arista, enjoying another strong string of radio hits, including “Jump Into It,” “Freeway of Love,” “Who’s Zoomin’ Who,” “Sisters Are Doing it For Themselves” and her magnificent duet with fellow angel George Michael on their Grammy Award winning, international no. 1 hit from 1987 “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me.”
Over the course of the last 20 years, she wowed at the 1998 Grammy Awards by filling in for Luciano Pavarotti with a stunning rendition of “Nessun Dorma”, sang “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee” at President Obama’s 2009 inauguration (in addition to Jimmy Carter’s in 1977 and Bill Clinton’s in 1993) and stole “Rolling In The Deep” away from Adele during her appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman in 2014. She continued to tour until 2017.
“Aretha Franklin and I have been friends and label mates for more than sixty years,” wrote soul legend Sam Moore, one of the many acts to paid homage to Franklin at last year’s tribute concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall, in a public statement. “I adored her and I know the feelings were mutual. While I’m heartbroken that she’s gone I know she’s in the Lord’s arms and she’s not in pain or suffering anymore from the damn cancer that took her away from us. I’m going to hope, pray and count on the fact that I will see her again sometime. Rest in the Lord’s arms in love, Re.”
Today we remember Aretha Franklin by going on YouTube and playing some of our favorite songs of hers. May she rest in peace and gain assurance that Saint Peter rolled out the red carpet as she walked through the Pearly Gates of Heaven as only the Queen of Soul can. Love You, Aretha.