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  • Aretha Franklin Aretha Louise Franklin is an American singer

  • and musician. Franklin began her career singing gospel at her father, minister C. L. Franklin's

  • church as a child. In 1960, at age 18, Franklin embarked on a secular career, recording for

  • Columbia Records only achieving modest success. Following her signing to Atlantic Records

  • in 1967, Franklin achieved commercial acclaim and success with songs such as "Respect",

  • " A Natural Woman" and "Think". These hits and more helped her to gain the title The

  • Queen of Soul by the end of the 1960s decade. Franklin eventually recorded a total of 88

  • charted singles on Billboard, including 77 Hot 100 entries and twenty number-one R&B

  • singles, becoming the most charted female artist in the chart's history. Franklin also

  • recorded acclaimed albums such as I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, Lady Soul,

  • Young, Gifted & Black and Amazing Grace before experiencing problems with her record company

  • by the mid-1970s. After her father was shot in 1979, Franklin left Atlantic and signed

  • with Arista Records, finding success with a cameo appearance in the film, The Blues

  • Brothers and with the albums, Jump to It and Who's Zoomin' Who?. In 1998, Franklin won

  • international acclaim for singing the opera aria, "Nessun Dorma", at the Grammys of that

  • year replacing Luciano Pavarotti. Later that same year, she scored her final Top 40 recording

  • with "A Rose Is Still a Rose". Franklin has won a total of 18 Grammy Awards

  • and is one of the best-selling female artists of all time, having sold over 75 million records

  • worldwide. Franklin has been honored throughout her career including a 1987 induction into

  • the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in which she became the first female performer to be inducted.

  • She was inducted to the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. In August 2012, Franklin was inducted

  • into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Franklin is listed in at least two all-time lists on

  • Rolling Stone magazine, including the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, in which she

  • placed number 9, and the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time in which she placed number 1.

  • Early life Aretha Louise Franklin was born in Memphis,

  • Tennessee, the daughter of Barbara (née) Siggers and Clarence LaVaughn Franklin. Her

  • father, who went by the nickname, "C. L.", was an itinerant preacher originally from

  • Shelby, Mississippi, while her mother was an accomplished piano player and vocalist.

  • Alongside Aretha, her parents had three other children while both C. L. and Barbara had

  • children from outside their marriage. The family relocated to Buffalo, New York when

  • Aretha was two. Prior to her fifth birthday, C. L. Franklin permanently relocated the family

  • to Detroit, Michigan where he founded the Baptist church, New Bethel. Franklin's parents

  • had a troubled marriage due to stories of C. L. Franklin's philandering and in 1948,

  • they separated, with Barbara relocating back to Buffalo with her son, Vaughn, from a previous

  • affair. Contrary to popular notion, Franklin's mother

  • did not abandon her children and Aretha would recall seeing her mother in Buffalo during

  • summertime while Barbara also frequently visited her children in Detroit. Franklin's mother

  • died on March 7, 1952, prior to Franklin's tenth birthday. Several women, including Franklin's

  • grandmother Rachel, and Mahalia Jackson took turns helping with the children at the Franklin

  • home. During this time, Franklin learned how to play piano by ear. Franklin's father's

  • emotionally-driven sermons resulted in him being known as the man with the "million-dollar

  • voice" and earning over thousands of dollars for sermons in various churches across the

  • country. Franklin's celebrity led to his home being visited by various celebrities including

  • gospel musicians Clara Ward, James Cleveland and early Caravans members Albertina Walker

  • and Inez Andrews as well as Martin Luther King, Jr., Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke.

  • Music career Beginnings

  • Just after her mother's death, Aretha began singing solos at New Bethel, debuting with

  • the hymn, "Jesus, Be a Fence Around Me". Four years later, when Aretha was 14, her father

  • began managing her, bringing her on the road with him during his so-called "gospel caravan"

  • tours for her to perform in various churches. He helped his daughter get signed to her first

  • recording deal with J.V.B. Records, where her first album, Songs of Faith, was issued

  • in 1956. Two singles were released to gospel radio stations including "Never Grow Old"

  • and "Precious Lord, Take My Hand". Franklin sometimes traveled with the Caravans and The

  • Soul Stirrers during this time and developed a crush on Sam Cooke, who was then singing

  • with the Soul Stirrers prior to his secular career.

  • After turning 18, Aretha confided to her father that she aspired to follow Sam Cooke to record

  • pop music. Serving as her manager, C. L. agreed to the move and helped to produce a two-song

  • demo that soon was brought to the attention of Columbia Records, who agreed to sign her

  • in 1960. Franklin was signed as a "five-percent artist". During this period, Franklin would

  • be coached by choreographer Cholly Atkins to prepare for her pop performances. Before

  • signing with Columbia, Sam Cooke tried to persuade Aretha's father to have his label,

  • RCA sign Aretha. He had also been persuaded by local record label owner Berry Gordy to

  • sign Aretha and her elder sister Erma to his Tamla label. Aretha's father felt the label

  • was not established enough yet. Aretha's first Columbia single, "Today I Sing the Blues",

  • was issued in September 1960 and later reached the top ten of the Hot Rhythm & Blues Sellers

  • chart. Initial success

  • In January 1961, Columbia issued Aretha's debut album, Aretha: With The Ray Bryant Combo.

  • The album featured her first single to chart the Billboard Hot 100, "Won't Be Long", which

  • also peaked at number 7 on the R&B chart. Mostly produced by Clyde Otis, Franklin's

  • Columbia recordings saw her recording in diverse genres such as standards, vocal jazz, blues,

  • doo-wop and rhythm and blues. Before the year was out, Franklin scored her first top 40

  • single with her rendition of the standard, "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody",

  • which also included the R&B hit, "Operation Heartbreak", on its b-side. "Rock-a-Bye" became

  • her first international hit, reaching the top 40 in Australia and Canada. By the end

  • of 1961, Franklin was named as a "new-star female vocalist" in Down Beat magazine. In

  • 1962, Columbia issued two more albums, The Electrifying Aretha Franklin and The Tender,

  • the Moving, the Swinging Aretha Franklin, the latter of which charted number 69 on the

  • Billboard Pop LPs chart. By 1964, Franklin began recording more pop

  • music, reaching the top ten on the R&B chart with the ballad, "Runnin' Out of Fools" in

  • early 1965. She had two R&B charted singles in 1965 and 1966 with the songs "One Step

  • Ahead" and "Cry Like a Baby" while also reaching the Easy Listening charts with the ballads

  • "You Made Me Love You" and "(No, No) I'm Losing You". By the mid-1960s, Aretha was netting

  • $100,000 from countless performances in nightclubs and theaters. Also during that period, Franklin

  • appeared on rock and roll shows such as Hollywood A Go-Go and Shindig!. However, it was argued

  • that Franklin's potential was neglected at the label. Columbia executive John H. Hammond

  • later said he felt Columbia did not understand Aretha's early gospel background and failed

  • to bring that aspect out further during her Columbia period.

  • Commercial success In January 1967, choosing not to renew her

  • Columbia contract after six years with the company, Franklin signed to Atlantic Records.

  • That month, she traveled to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to record at FAME Studios to record

  • the song, "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)" in front of the musicians of the

  • famed Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. The song was later issued that February and shot up

  • to number-one on the R&B chart, while also peaking at number nine on the Billboard Hot

  • 100, giving Aretha her first top ten pop single. The song's b-side, "Do Right Woman, Do Right

  • Man", reached the R&B top 40, peaking at number 37. In April, Atlantic issued her frenetic

  • version of Otis Redding's "Respect", which shot to number-one on both the R&B and pop

  • charts and later became her signature song and was later hailed as a civil rights and

  • feminist anthem. Aretha's debut Atlantic album, I Never Loved

  • a Man the Way I Love You, also became commercially successful, later going gold. Aretha scored

  • two more top ten singles in 1967 including "Baby I Love You" and "(You Make Me Feel Like

  • A) Natural Woman". Franklin's rapport with producer Jerry Wexler helped in the creation

  • of the majority of Aretha's peak recordings with Atlantic. In 1968, she issued the top-selling

  • albums, Lady Soul and Aretha Now, which included some of Franklin's most popular hit singles

  • including "Chain of Fools", "Ain't No Way", "Think" and "I Say a Little Prayer". In February

  • 1968, Franklin earned the first two of her Grammys including the debut category for Best

  • Female R&B Vocal Performance. On February 16, 1968, Aretha was honored with a day in

  • her honor and was greeted by longtime friend Martin Luther King, Jr. who gave her the SCLC

  • Drum Beat Award for Musicians just two months prior to his death. In June 1968, she appeared

  • on the cover of Time magazine. Franklin's success expanded during the early

  • 1970s in which she recorded top ten singles such as "Spanish Harlem", "Rock Steady" and

  • "Day Dreaming" as well as the acclaimed albums, Spirit in the Dark, Young, Gifted & Black

  • and her gospel album, Amazing Grace, which sold over two million copies. In 1971, Franklin

  • became the first R&B performer to headline Fillmore West, later recording the live album,

  • Aretha Live at Fillmore West. Franklin's career began experiencing issues while recording

  • the album, Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky), which featured production from Quincy

  • Jones. Despite the success of the single, "Angel", the album bombed upon its release

  • in 1973. Franklin continued having R&B success with songs such as "Until You Come Back to

  • Me" and "I'm in Love" but by 1975, her albums and songs were failing to become a success.

  • After Jerry Wexler left Atlantic for Warner Bros. Records in 1976, Franklin worked on

  • the soundtrack to the film, "Sparkle", with Curtis Mayfield. The album yielded Aretha's

  • final top 40 hit of the decade, "Something He Can Feel", which also peaked at number-one

  • on the R&B chart. Franklin's follow-up albums for Atlantic including Sweet Passion, Almighty

  • Fire and La Diva bombed on the charts and in 1979, Franklin opted to leave the company.

  • Later years In 1980, Franklin signed with Clive Davis'

  • Arista Records and that same year, gave a command performance at the Royal Albert Hall

  • in front of Queen Elizabeth. Aretha also made an acclaimed guest role as a waitress in the

  • comedy musical, The Blues Brothers. Franklin's first Arista album, Aretha, featured the #3

  • R&B hit, "United Together" and her Grammy-nominated cover of Otis Redding's "I Can't Turn You

  • Loose". The follow-up, 1981's Love All the Hurt Away, included her famed duet of the

  • title track with George Benson while the album also included her Grammy-winning cover of

  • Sam & Dave's "Hold On, I'm Comin'". Franklin returned to the Gold standard - for the first

  • time in seven years - with the album, Jump to It. Its title track was her first top 40

  • single on the pop charts in six years. In 1985, inspired by her desire to have a

  • "younger sound" in her music, her fourth Arista album, Who's Zoomin' Who, became her first

  • album to be certified platinum, after selling well over a million copies, thanks to the

  • hits, "Freeway of Love", the title track and "Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves". The

  • following year's Aretha album nearly matched this success with the hit singles "Jumpin'

  • Jack Flash", "Jimmy Lee" and "I Knew You Were Waiting for Me", her international number-one

  • duet with George Michael. During that period, Aretha provided vocals to the theme songs

  • of the shows, A Different World and Together. In 1987, she issued her third gospel album,

  • One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, which was recorded at her late father's New Bethel church,

  • followed by Through the Storm in 1989. Franklin's 1991 album, What You See is What You Sweat

  • flopped on the charts. Franklin returned to the charts in 1993 with the dance song, "A

  • Deeper Love" and returned to the top 40 with the song, "Willing to Forgive" in 1994.

  • In 1998, Franklin returned to the top 40 with the Lauryn Hill-produced song, "A Rose Is

  • Still a Rose", later issuing the album of the same name, which went gold. That same

  • year, Franklin earned international acclaim for her performance of "Nessun Dorma" at the

  • Grammy Awards. Her final Arista album, So Damn Happy, was released in 2003 and featured

  • the Grammy-winning song, "Wonderful". In 2004, Franklin announced that she was leaving Arista

  • after over 20 years with the label. To complete her Arista obligations, Aretha issued the

  • duets compilation album, Jewels in the Crown: All-Star Duets with the Queen, in 2007. The

  • following year, she issued the holiday album, This Christmas, Aretha, on DMI Records. In

  • January 2009, Franklin again made international headlines for performing "My Country 'Tis

  • of Thee" at President Barack Obama's inaugural ceremony with her church hat becoming a popular

  • topic online. In 2010, Franklin accepted an honorary degree from Yale University. In 2011,

  • under her own label, Aretha's Records, she issued the album, Aretha: A Woman Falling

  • Out Of Love. As of 2013, Franklin is now signed under RCA Records and is currently working

  • again with Clive Davis. A new album is in the works with producers Babyface and Danger

  • Mouse planning to work with Franklin. Music style and image

  • Franklin has often been described as a great singer and musician due to "vocal flexibility,

  • interpretive intelligence, skillful piano-playing, her ear, her experience." Franklin's voice

  • has been described as being a "powerful mezzo-soprano voice" and has been praised for her arrangements

  • and interpretations of other artists' hit songs. Of describing Franklin's voice as a

  • youngster on her first album, Songs of Faith, released when she was just fourteen, Jerry

  • Wexler explained that Franklin's voice "was not that of a child but rather of an ecstatic

  • hierophant." Franklin's image went through rapid changes throughout her career. During

  • the 1960s, Franklin was known for wearing bouffant hairdos and extravagant dresses that

  • were sometimes surrounded enveloped in either mink fur or feathers. In the 1970s, embracing

  • her roots, Franklin briefly wore the Afro hairdo and wore Afrocentric styled clothing

  • admired by her peers. In the mid-1970s, after dropping weight, Franklin began wearing slinkier

  • attire. By the 1980s, she had settled on wearing nightgowns and extravagant dresses.

  • Personal life Aretha is the mother of four sons. Her first

  • two children, Clarence (born January 28, 1955), and Edward (born January 22, 1957), were born

  • before her 13th and 15th birthdays. She has never identified the father of either child.

  • During that period, Aretha's grandmother, Rachel, and sister, Erma, raised Aretha's

  • boys while she pursued her musical career and other options including "hanging out with

  • my friends." Rachel lived in a guest house behind her son C. L. Franklin's LaSalle Street

  • home, with the Franklins having moved there from their Boston Street residence during

  • the late 1950s. Aretha's third child, Ted White, Jr., was born in 1964. Today he is

  • known as Teddy Richards and is a professional musician, often playing guitar in his mother's

  • band. In 1970, an affair with her road manager, Ken Cunningham, resulted in the birth of Aretha's

  • fourth son, Kecalf. (His name was devised from the first initials of his parents' names.)

  • Aretha had married the much older Ted White in 1961, despite strong objections from her

  • father. After a contentious marriage that involved domestic violence, she divorced him

  • in 1969. She married actor Glynn Turman on April 11, 1978 at her father's New Bethel

  • Baptist Church. Aretha subsequently became a stepmother to Turman's three children. They

  • split in late 1982 and officially divorced in early 1984. In 2012, Aretha Franklin again

  • announced plans to walk down the aisle with her longtime companion Willie Wilkerson. Within

  • several weeks of the announcement, Aretha called the wedding off.

  • Aretha's sisters Erma and Carolyn were also professional musicians and often sang background

  • on Aretha's hits. In 1969, following her divorce from Ted White, her brother, minister Cecil

  • Franklin presided as her manager, a position he kept until his death from lung cancer on

  • December 26, 1989. Youngest sister Carolyn preceded Cecil in death in April 1988 following

  • a long bout with breast cancer. Erma Franklin later died of throat cancer in September 2002.

  • Franklin's half-brother, Vaughn (born December 24, 1934) and half-sister Carl Kelley (née

  • Jennings; born 1940) are still alive. Kelley is C. L. Franklin's daughter by Mildred Jennings,

  • a then 12-year-old congregant of New Salem Baptist Church in Memphis, where C. L. was

  • pastor. Aretha was performing at the Aladdin Hotel

  • in Las Vegas, on June 10, 1979, when her father was shot twice at point blank range in his

  • Detroit home. After six months in Henry Ford Hospital, the Franklin family returned their

  • father back to his home with round the clock nursing care. The shooting had left C. L.

  • in a coma. Aretha moved back to Detroit in late 1982 to assist with the care of her father,

  • who died at Detroit's New Light Nursing Home on July 27, 1984.

  • Franklin has been romantically linked to many musicians such as Sam Cooke and Dennis Edwards,

  • formerly of The Temptations. Some of her music business friends have included Dionne Warwick,

  • Mavis Staples, and Cissy Houston, who began singing with Aretha as member of the Sweet

  • Inspirations. Cissy sang background on Franklin's classic hit, "Ain't No Way". Aretha first

  • met her daughter, Whitney, in the early 1970s. She was made an honorary aunt and Whitney

  • often referred to her as "Auntie Ree". Whitney Houston died on February 11, 2012. Franklin

  • stated she was surprised by her death. She had initially planned to perform at Houston's

  • memorial service on February 18 but her representative claimed that Aretha suffered a mild leg spasm

  • and was unable to attend. In response to criticism of her non-attendance, she stated, "God knows

  • I wanted to be there, but I couldn't." Aretha Franklin is a registered Democrat.

  • Weight issues and health problems Franklin dealt with weight issues for years.

  • In 1974, she dropped 40 pounds (18 kg) during a crash diet. Franklin maintained the weight

  • loss until 1978. Franklin again lost the weight in the early 1990s prior to releasing the

  • album, What You See Is What You Sweat, gaining it back again after a year and a half. Franklin

  • later admitted to years of yo-yo dieting. Following her surgery to get rid of an undisclosed

  • tumor, Franklin lost 85 pounds (39 kg) In 2012, she admitted she had gained some of

  • the weight back. A former chain smoker who struggled with alcoholism, she quit smoking

  • in 1992. Franklin admitted in 1994 that her smoking was "messing with my voice", but after

  • quitting smoking she said later, in 2003, that her weight "ballooned".

  • In 2010, Franklin canceled a number of concerts after she decided to have surgery for an undisclosed