Aretha Franklin: A Powerful Voice

Today’s informative article is on the number one of Rolling Stones best singers of all time: Aretha Franklin. 📝

This woman started out as a gospel singer and work her way up to the top! But she not only was an amazing singer, she also used her voice and success to support the civil rights movement. Her songs became very important to that movement. ✊🏿✊🏾✊🏽✊🏼

If you are wondering how that happened, just read the full article:

Aretha Louise Franklin| *25-03-1942| † 16-08-2018| USA | Singer, Songwriter, Human Rights Activist

Aretha Franklin was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Her mother was a gospel singer and pianist. Her father was a Baptist minister of national influence who preached at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit. While growing up, Aretha sang in the church together with local and national celebrities. She learned to play the piano by ear and quickly understood the correct tones and pitches. In 1956, when Aretha was only fourteen years old, she recorded her first tracks at the church of her father. Together these songs formed the album Songs of Faith. When she was eighteen years old, Aretha switched from sacred to secular music and moved to New York City, where she signed a contract with Columbia Records. Her first record was released in January of 1961, it reached number ten on the Billboard charts.

However, Aretha subsequently decided to sign a contract with Atlantic Records because the collaboration with Columbia Records encountered misunderstanding and disagreements. At Atlantic Records Aretha was finally allowed to sculpt her own musical identity, so she returned to her gospel-blues roots. In 1967 she released her legendary single Respect, a cover of Otis Redding’s composition. The song was very important to Aretha’s place in the civil rights movement. It helped send a message about equality, peace and justice. After bringing out some astonishing pop hits in the following decade, Aretha was called ‘The Queen of Soul’. During the 1970’s Aretha returned to her love of gospel and released the best-selling gospel album of all time: Amazing Grace. By the late 1970’s however, Aretha’s popularity was eroded because of the disco genre making entrance. In 1982 Aretha got some help from Luther Vandross and got back on top with a new dance hit, Jump to it. Five years later, Franklin became the first woman to be included in the Rock and Roll hall of fame. Although her 1990s and 2000s album sales couldn’t come close to the numbers of previous decades, Franklin remained ‘The Queen of Soul’. In 2009, Aretha performed in front of an audience of over a million people during Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration. Eight years later she intended to reduce the frequency of her performances following her last released album. After recovering from pancreatic cancer in 2013, the disease came back and caused the death of Aretha Franklin in 2018. 

From the rough account of Aretha’s life story, there is much to tell about the role she played in the civil rights movement. During her childhood, Aretha was surrounded by the now-famous faces of the civil rights movement. The songs Aretha wrote would become their anthems. Martin Luther King was a frequent guest in the home of Aretha’s father. Just after Aretha recorded her first album she went on tour with King and a decade later she would sing at his funeral. The daughter of King called her a “Shining example” of how to use the arts to support social change. Her songs became anthems that uplifted and inspired generations. Aretha’s popular song Respect became the anthem of the civil rights campaign and the feminist movement. Aretha further insisted that her contract with Columbia Records include a clause stating that she would never perform for a segregated audience. When Martin Luther King was alive, Aretha paid for many civil rights tours and campaigns. Additionally, she held free concerts, hosted activists and worked to raise money for them. In this way, Aretha was a very prominent person throughout her life, carrying an important message within the African-American civil rights movement. In 2015, President Obama said the following about Aretha: “Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R&B, rock and roll – the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope.”


Author: Daphne Janssen
Image: Atlantic Records

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