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Profty Journal

Discover The Voice: Aretha Franklin

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Who do you think of when you hear that word spelled out? Ottis Redding perhaps? He was, after all, the music artist that originally wrote and sang “Respect.” Or perhaps the only artist that comes to mind is theQueen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin. Aretha is unparalleled in her capacity to be identified with a song that once belonged to someone else. She simply has to sing and the listener is hypnotized by her voice, her performanceand her soul.

She grew up with music, singing in the gospel choir of her father’s Baptist church. She recorded 112 charted singles on Billboard, including 77 Hot 100 entries, 17 top-ten pop singles, 100 R&B entries, and 20 number-oneR&B singles including “Respect,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools,” and “I Never Loveda Man (The Way I Love You).” She won 18 Grammy Awards, including the first eight awards given for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance (1968–1975), a Grammy Awards Living Legend honor and Lifetime Achievement Award. Franklin is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 75 million records worldwide and in 2010, Rolling Stone magazine ranked her number one on its list of the "100 Greatest Singers of All Time” and he was the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Vocal Range: E2 – A5
Vocal Fach: Dramatic Soprano

Although she is mostly associated with Soul and R & B, Aretha cannot be pigeonholed into a single genre. She oncestood in for Pavarotti at the last minute for a performance at the Grammys and sang “Nessun Dorma.” That performance confirmed what had already become a universal truth: No matter the genre, when Aretha Franklinsings a song, the song itself is forever transformed. See the video below:


Beyond her incredible vocal range, Aretha was a consummate performer and musician as attested by her reprisal of “Think” for her role in “The Blues Brothers.” She doesn’t plan and practice staged facial expressions and gesturesbut performs with an authenticity that engages the audience. When you watch her performance in the video below, she is relaying a powerful message to her husband that he better THINK before he leaves her to run off and rejoin his old band.


Whether she is a waitress in slippers or a diva in a fur coat, Aretha is genuine, so people connect with her. You can hear it in her voice and see it in her eyes, that she feels the words she is singing. Her performance of “IDreamed a Dream” resonates with any person who has ever dreamed of something more and she literally leavesyou breathless:


So, what makes Aretha Franklin so special? Her musical genius transcended genres, styles, and decades of theever-changing music industry. The industry itself is continually changing, but Aretha never had to. She was always true to her authentic self, whether she was singing gospel in the church choir or an 80’s Pop tune.

In 1956, at the tender age of 14, Aretha recorded her first album, “The Gospel Sound of Aretha Franklin.” At age 18, Aretha moved to New York to pursue singing and released her debut in 1961 with Columbia Records, “Aretha: With the Ray Bryant Combo.” It was produced by John Hammond and spawned her first Billboard Hot 100 hit, “Won’t BeLong.”

Throughout the 60’s and 70’s Aretha recorded such hits as “I Say a Little Prayer” (another song originally  written for and performed by Dionne Warwick), “Drown in My Own Tears” (best known by Ray Charles one decade earlier), and “Young, Gifted and Black” (originally introduced by Nina Simone). In the 80’s new fans discovered this powerhouse with her movie performance of “Think” in “The Blue’s Brothers” and at the age of 43 in 1985 Aretha released the album “Who’s Zooming Who,” creating another huge hit, “Freeway of Love.”


In 2014, after some years of speculation and rumors about her declining health, Franklin released Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics, a cover album of songs made famous by other larger-than-life female voices she respected and admired. The album included renditions of “At Last,” “People,” and Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” which was only a few years old.


And in 2015 Aretha brought President Obama to tears with her performance of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” at the Kennedy Center Honors.


Aretha Franklin passed on August 16, 2018, but her music will live on forever. She was the very essence of R & B and the most influential female vocalist in modern history. She didn’t need a “look” or an “image” or a gimmick ofany kind. She didn’t use splashy costumes, theatrics or choreography to define her. She allowed her authenticity to shine through her voice and people responded. Her name is synonymous with respect because you can’t Arethawithout R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Discover The Voice