A tribute to the Queen of Soul


Christopher Wright

The cover from Aretha’s iconic 1968 album “Aretha Now.”

Marissa Castro

Growing up I heard all different types of music: latin, hip hop, rap, R&B, and soul. So when I heard Aretha’s voice, I remembered thinking how insanely talented she was and how her music spoke to people everywhere of different cultures.

Be your own artist, and always be confident in what you do. If you are not going to be confident in what you are doing then you might as well not be doing it.

— Aretha Franklin

Franklin’s story begins on March 25,1942 in Memphis, Tennessee. She was born to a Baptist preacher, Reverend Clarence “C.L” Franklin, and her mother, Barbara Siggers Franklin, who was a gospel singer.

Franklin always had a talent for singing and playing the piano. As she got older she got to sing gospel music like her mom at her father’s congregation. Franklin was also self-taught and obviously gifted with singing and playing the piano.

By the age of 12, Franklin had her first son, Clarence Franklin. She had her second son two years later, Edward Franklin. Both of her oldest sons carry her family name.

Her other children, Teddy Richards and Kecalf Cunningham, have their father’s last name. Out of all her kids Richards is the only one in the music industry; he’s a producer and a guitarist.

When the Queen of Soul was 14 years old she recorded a few tracks at her father’s church, which led to a small label releasing an album called “Songs Of Faith” in 1956.

Franklin also performed and toured with her father’s traveling show, and she became friends with gospel greats such as Mahalia Jackson and Sam Cooke.

Franklin went to New York and signed to Columbia Records, who released her album Aretha in 1961. Two of Franklin’s tracks would make it to the R&B top ten charts, and that same year, her single “Rock-a-bye-your-baby” made it to the pop chart at number 37.

In 1966 Franklin and White, who was her husband and manager at the time, moved. So Franklin had to move from Columbia Records to Atlantic Records.

The Queen of Soul went on to record massive hits like “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” in 1967 and 1968 by using her incredible massive voice that could fill up an entire area showcasing her gospel roots like her mama. “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” reached number 1 on both R&B and Pop charts in 1967, which led her to win two Grammys that year.

Like most artists Franklin had career struggles. In 1975 her sound was fading due to rising young African American stars who were fresh in the studio.

But the Queen of Soul made a royal comeback in 1985 at the top of the music charts with a fabulous hit album called “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” featuring her single “Freeway of Love” and also her collaboration with rock band the Eurythmics. This record became her best selling album.

In 2014, Franklin scored number 13 on the pop charts; and number three on the R&B charts with the Great Divas Classics. The Queen of Soul revealed that she would be retiring late in 2017, so when she was doing a radio interview in Detroit, she said that she would be collaborating with Stevie Wonder on her upcoming album.

The Queen of Soul was terribly sick and was bedridden in her Detroit home with family and friends surrounding her. Stevie Wonder and Jesse Jackson visited to wish her well. Four days later, Franklin passed away due to pancreatic cancer. 

The Museum of African American History in Detroit held a public funeral. People all over the world camped overnight to pay their respects to The Queen of Soul. Multiple celebrities paid tribute, including Reba McEntire, Willie Nelson, Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande and Kelly Clarkson.

In January 2018 it was announced that the biopic “Respect” would be released in 2021. The producers hand-picked powerhouse singer/actress Jennifer Hudson to play the role of the Queen of Soul.

Even with the Queen of Soul gone, many artists and young people are still inspired by her today.