American musician, singer, songwriter, and pianist Aretha Louise Franklin was born March 25th, 1942. In a recording career that has spanned over half a century, Franklin’s repertoire has included gospel, jazz, blues, R&B, pop, rock and funk. Franklin is known as one of the most important popularizers of the soul music genre and is referred to as the Queen of Soul, a title she was given early in her career. Franklin, the daughter of prominent Baptist minister and activist C. L. Franklin, began her singing career singing in her father’s church at the age of ten and started recording four years later. After several years in the gospel circuit and with her father’s blessing, she formed a secular pop music career at the age of eighteen, signing with Columbia Records, where she was branded by its CEO John Hammond as his most important act since Billie Holiday. Franklin’s Columbia period wasn’t as successful as hoped and in late 1966, Franklin switched over to Atlantic Records, where she began recording a string of popular hits including “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)”, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, “Think”, “Chain of Fools” and what later became her signature song, “Respect”.
Franklin continued to record a string of popular singles throughout the early 1970s, reaching her peak as an albums artist with 1970′s Spirit in the Dark, 1971′s Young, Gifted & Black and the 1972 gospel record, Amazing Grace, which became the best-selling pure gospel album of all time. Franklin’s success in Atlantic peaked after the release of the singles, “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)”, “I’m in Love” and “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” and the 1976 soundtrack to the movie, Sparkle and Franklin left the label in 1980 to sign with Clive Davis’ Arista Records label where she switched over from soul and funk music to a more conservative urban adult contemporary sound in the albums, Aretha and Love All the Hurt Away, before regaining commercial success with the 1982 Gold album, Jump to It, produced by R&B hitmaker Luther Vandross.
In 1984, Franklin added modern day pop rock and dance elements to her sound, which was integral to the success of her 1985 Platinum album, Who’s Zoomin’ Who?, which spawned the hits “Freeway of Love”, “Who’s Zoomin’ Who” and the Eurythmics members Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart featured “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves”. The 1986 release, Aretha, featured her seventeenth Top 10 single – a #1 duet with George Michael entitled “I Knew You Were Waiting for Me”. Afterwards Aretha did not return to the Gold standard until the release of 1998′s A Rose Is Still a Rose, which incorporated modern day contemporary R&B and which the title track returned Franklin to the top 40 of the pop charts.
Rolling Stone magazine ranked her atop its “100 Greatest Singers of All Time” list, as well as the ninth greatest artist of all time. She has won a total of 20 career Grammy Awards, including two honorary Grammys, and she is one of the best-selling female artists of all time, having sold over 75 million records worldwide. In 1987, Franklin became the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On August 14, 2012, Franklin was inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame.