Aretha Franklin (1942-2018): A Life Well Lived
Phenomenal. Authentic. Inspiring. Unapologetically Black and proud. Prolific. Unrivaled.
Attempting to adhere to any fixed group of adjectives when describing Aretha Franklin is impossible. Perhaps the well-known moniker “Queen of Soul” says it best. According to Franklin’s former publicist, Clarence Waldron, the title was first coined by WVON radio personality Pervis Spann after a performance at Chicago’s Regal Theatre in the 1960s. “That Aretha Franklin is really something. We should crown her the Queen of Soul,” Waldron told CBS 2 in Chicago.
Franklin died at her home surrounded by her friends and loved ones on August 16 at the age of 76 from pancreatic cancer. She is survived by her four sons, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins. In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by sisters Erma and Carolyn, who were also professional musicians and often provided background vocals on Franklin’s records, her brother Cecil, who was her manager from 1969 until his death in 1989, and her step- brother, Vaughn. Her older half-sister, Carl Ellan Kelley, is her only surviving sibling.
A two-day public viewing at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit will take place on August 28 and 29 from 9am through 9pm each day. A private funeral for family, friends and guests will take place at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit on August 31. She will then be buried at Woodlawn Cemetery alongside her father, brother Cecil, sisters Carolyn and Erma and nephew Thomas Garrett.
Source: Wikipedia.com with other sources
1942: Aretha Louise Franklin is born on March 25 in Memphis, Tennessee, to Barbara Franklin — a professional pianist and vocalist — and Clarence LaVaughn “C. L.” Franklin, a Baptist preacher.
1946: The family moves to Detroit, Michigan where Rev. Franklin becomes senior pastor at New Bethel Baptist Church.
1952: Barbara Franklin suffers a heart attack and dies on March 7, just before Aretha’s 10th birthday. In addition to her grandmother Rachel, gospel legends Mahalia Jackson and Clara Ward stepped in to help care for and mentor Aretha and her three siblings. It was during this period that Aretha began to learn to play the piano by ear and made her singing debut at New Bethel.
1954: Rev. Franklin — whose fiery, persuasive sermons earned him the title of “the man with the million-dollar voice” and earned him thousands of dollars — becomes Aretha’s manager and adds her to his popular Gospel Caravan tour, compromised of gospel music’s top performers. The group traveled throughout the country, performing in various churches. As a young gospel singer, Franklin spent summers on the performance circuit in Chicago, staying at her friend Mavis Staples’s mother’s home on the South Side.
1956: Aretha Franklin’s first album, “Songs of Faith” is released on the J.V.B. Records label.
1958: Franklin goes on tour with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., beginning a lifetime commitment to civil rights causes.
1960: Franklin expresses a desire to follow her friend Sam Cooke and record popular music, then moves to New York. Cooke wants Franklin to join him at the RCA label; he and Franklin have been courted by Tamla record label owner Berry Gordy, along with Franklin’s sister Erma. However, her father, Rev. Franklin –- still acting as Aretha’s manager — feels the label is not established enough. Rev. Franklin helps to produce a two-song demo that garners the attention of Columbia Records, who agreed to sign her to the popular label.
Franklin’s first single, “Today I Sing the Blues”, is issued in September, reaching the top ten in the Hot Rhythm & Blues Sellers chart.
1961: Franklin’s first album with Columbia, “Aretha: With The Ray Bryant Combo” featuring “Won’t Be Long”, her first single to chart the Billboard Hot 100. The single also peaks at number 7 on the R&B chart. Later that year, Franklin scores her first top 40 single with the well-known standard, “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody.” It was her first international hit, reaching the top 40 in Australia and Canada.
Franklin marries Theodore “Ted” White. The couple had one son together, Ted White, Jr., (known professionally as Teddy Richards, who provided guitar backing for his mother’s band during live concerts.) born in 1964. The couple divorced in 1969. Franklin had three other sons: Clarence and Edward Franklin. (born in 1955 and 1957 respectively) and Kecalf Cunningham, born in 1970.
1966: Franklin chooses not to renew her contract with Columbia and signs on to Atlantic Records.
1967: Franklin’s debut Atlantic album, “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You,” goes gold. The title song becomes Franklin’s first top ten pop single, reaching number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Later that year, she recorded her version of Otis Redding’s “Respect” which shot to number one on both the R&B and pop charts. “Respect” became Franklin’s signature song, and was adopted by both civil rights and feminist movements as an unofficial anthem. Franklin scored several more hit singles that year, including “Baby I Love You”, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “Chain of Fools.”
1968: Franklin’s top-selling albums “Lady Soul “and “Aretha Now,” are released. The albums included some of Franklin’s most popular hit singles, including “Ain’t No Way”, “Think” and “I Say a Little Prayer”. That February, Franklin earned her first two Grammys – Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B recording—for “Respect.”
She went on to be nominated for 44 more Grammy Awards and to win 18 in total during her career.
In February, her close friend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gives Franklin the SCLC Drum Beat Award for Musicians. After King is assassinated on April 4th, Franklin sings at his funeral.
1970: Franklin offers to pay the bail of jailed Black Panther Party member Angela Davis, in spite of objections from her father. In a December 3, 1970 Jet Magazine story, she explains the reason for her decision: “My daddy says I don’t know what I’m doing,” Franklin said. “Well, I respect him, of course, but I’m going to stick by my beliefs. Angela Davis must go free. Black people will be free. I’ve been locked up (for disturbing the peace in Detroit) and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace. Jail is hell to be in. I’m going to see her free if there is any justice in our courts, not because I believe in communism, but because she’s a Black woman and she wants freedom for Black people. I have the money; I got it from Black people — they’ve made me financially able to have it — and I want to use it in ways that will help our people.”
Franklin releases “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)”
1971: Franklin releases her soulful renditions of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and Ben E. King’s “Spanish Harlem.”
1972: Franklin’s iconic albums “Amazing Grace” (which sold more than two million copies.) and “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” are released. She also releases the single “Daydreaming.”
1973: Franklin releases “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)”
1975: Franklin receives an honorary law degree from Bethune-Cookman University
1976: Franklin releases “Something He Can Feel” — penned by Curtis Mayfield — which was part of the soundtrack for the film “Sparkle” The song hit number one on Billboard’s R&B singles chart.
1978: Franklin marries actor Glynn Turman on April 11. The couple divorced in 1984. Although Franklin had plans to marry her longtime companion Willie Wilkerson, she called off the engagement in 2012.
1979: Rev. Franklin is shot twice at point blank range in his Detroit home. Aretha moves back to Detroit in late 1982 to help care for him until his death at Detroit’s New Light Nursing Home on July 27, 1984.
1980: Franklin leaves the Atlantic Records label and signs on with Arista Records.
Franklin gives a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
Franklin reprises her hit song, “Think” for the comedy film “The Blues Brothers.”
1981: Franklin receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
1982: “Jump to It” is released, earning Franklin a Gold record.
1983: “Jump to It” wins an American Music Award for Favorite Soul and R&B Album
1984: Franklin wins an American Music Award for Favorite Female Soul and R&B Artist
1985: “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” becomes Franklin’s first Arista album to be certified platinum, selling well over a million copies due to the hits “Freeway of Love”, the title track, and “Another Night”.
1986: Franklin provides vocals to the theme songs of the TV shows “A Different World.” She also wins an American Music Award for Favorite Female Soul and R&B Artist.
1987: Franklin becomes the first female performer to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Franklin receives an honorary doctorate from the University of Michigan.
1990: Franklin receives an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Wayne State University.
1991: Franklin receives a Grammy Legend Award.
1994: Franklin receives a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Franklin also becomes the youngest Kennedy Center Honoree up to that date.
1997: Franklin wins the NAACP Hall of Fame Award at the organization’s annual Image Awards ceremony.
Franklin receives honorary doctorate from the New England Conservatory of Music.
1998: Franklin returns to the top 40 with the Lauryn Hill-produced song “A Rose Is Still a Rose.” Her album of the same name goes gold.
Franklin stuns audiences with her memorable performance of Puccini’s “Nessun dorma” at the Grammy Awards. World renowned tenor Luciano Pavarotti — who popularized the aria and made it his signature piece — was unable to attend due to a sore throat and cancelled after the show had already begun, giving Franklin only 2o minutes notice.
1999: Franklin receives the National Medal of Arts award from President Bill Clinton.
2003: Franklin’s final Arista album, “So Damn Happy” is released in 2003
2004: Franklin leaves Arista Records after more than 20 years with the label.
2005: Franklin receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation highest civilian honor, from President George W. Bush. She is always inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame, and also became the second woman inducted to the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005.
2006: Franklin receives an honorary doctorate from the Berklee School of Music.
2007: Franklin receives an honorary doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania.
2008: Franklin is named the Grammy MusiCares Person of the Year and receives her final GRAMMY Award for Best Gospel Performance for “Never Gonna Break My Faith” with Mary J. Blige. Franklin also receives the NAACP Vanguard Award at the organization’s annual Image Awards ceremony.
2009: Franklin performs “My Country, ‘tis of Thee” at President Barack Obama’s historic inaugural ceremony.
Franklin receives an honorary doctorate from Brown University.
2010: Franklin receives honorary doctorate from Yale University.
2011: Franklin ranks first on Rolling Stone Magazine’s “100 Greatest Singers” list.
2012: Franklin is inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame
Franklin receives an honorary doctorate from Princeton University
2013: Franklin ranks first on Rolling Stone Magazine’s “100 Greatest Singers” list.
2014: Franklin signs with RCA Records. Her first RCA album, “Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics,” is released in October. The album includes Franklin’s cover of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”, which debuted at number 47 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
Franklin receives honorary degrees from Harvard and New York University.
2015: Franklin delivers an awe-inspiring performance of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” during the Kennedy Center Honors presentation in tribute to honoree Carole King, who co-wrote the song with then- husband Gerry Goffin in 1967. Franklin’s poignant rendition brought President Barack Obama to tears.
“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,” Obama replied in a New Yorker article when asked about that evening. “American history wells up when Aretha sings. That’s why, when she sits down at a piano and sings ‘A Natural Woman,’ she can move me to tears — the same way that Ray Charles’s version of ‘America the Beautiful’ will always be in my view the most patriotic piece of music ever performed — because it captures the fullness of the American experience, the view from the bottom as well as the top, the good and the bad, and the possibility of synthesis, reconciliation, transcendence.”
Franklin receives an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Album for “Aretha Sings the Great Diva Classics.”
Franklin is inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame.
2017: The City of Detroit honors Franklin’s legacy by renaming a portion of Madison Street, between Brush and Witherell Streets, “Aretha Franklin Way” on June 8.
Franklin releases the album “A Brand-New Me” in November. The album — recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra — incorporates material from her archives, peaking at number 5 on the Billboard Top Classical Albums chart.
Franklin delivers her final performance at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City during Elton John’s 25th anniversary gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation on November 7.
2018: Franklin dies at her home on August 16 at the age of 76 from pancreatic cancer, surrounded by the family and friends she held dear. A two-day public viewing, private funeral and burial will take place in Detroit. An all-star tribute concert — spearheaded by Franklin’s long-time colleague and friend producer Clive Davis and which has been in the planning stages for months — will take place on November 14, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York City.