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Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin is one of the giants of soul music, and indeed of American pop as a whole. More than any other performer,sheepitomized soulat its most gospel-charged. Her astonishing run of late-'60s hits with Atlantic Records -- "Respect," "INeverLoved a Man," "Chain of Fools,""Baby I Love You," "I Say a Little Prayer," "Think," "The House That Jack Built," andseveralothers -- earned her the title "Lady Soul," whichshe has worn uncontested ever since. Yet as much of aninternationalinstitution as she's become, much of her work -- outside of herrecordings for Atlantic in the late '60s and e ...read more

Aretha Franklin is one of the giants of soul music, and indeed of American pop as a whole. More than any other performer,sheepitomized soulat its most gospel-charged. Her astonishing run of late-'60s hits with Atlantic Records -- "Respect," "INeverLoved a Man," "Chain of Fools,""Baby I Love You," "I Say a Little Prayer," "Think," "The House That Jack Built," andseveralothers -- earned her the title "Lady Soul," whichshe has worn uncontested ever since. Yet as much of aninternationalinstitution as she's become, much of her work -- outside of herrecordings for Atlantic in the late '60s and early'70s -- is erraticand only fitfully inspired, making discretion a necessity when collecting herrecords.

Franklin's roots in gospel ran extremely deep. With her sisters Carolyn and Erma (both of whom would also haverecordingcareers), she sangat the Detroit church of her father, Reverend C.L. Franklin, while growing up in the 1950s. In fact,shemade her first recordings as a gospelartist at the age of 14. It has also been reported that Motown was interested insigningAretha back in the days when it was a tiny start. up.Ultimately, however, Franklin ended up with Columbia, to which shewassigned by the renowned talent scout John Hammond.

Franklin would record for Columbia constantly throughout the first half of the '60s, notching occasional R&B hits (and one Top40single, "Rock. a-bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody") but never truly breaking out as a star. The Columbia period continuestogenerate considerablecontroversy among critics, many of whom feel that Aretha's true aspirations were being blunted bypop-oriented material and production. Infact, there's a reasonable amount of fine items to be found on the Columbiasides,including the occasional song ("Lee Cross," "Soulville")where she belts out soul with real gusto. It's undeniably true,though,that her work at Columbia was considerably tamer than what was tofollow, and suffered in general from a lack ofdirectionand an apparent emphasis on trying to develop her as an all-around entertainer, ratherthan as an R&B/soul singer.

When Franklin left Columbia for Atlantic, producer Jerry Wexler was determined to bring out her most soulful, fiery traits.Aspart of that plan,he had her record her first single, "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)," at Muscle ShoalsinAlabama with esteemed Southern R&Bmusicians. In fact, that was to be her only session actually at Muscle Shoals, butmuchof the remainder of her '60s work would be recordedwith the Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section, although thesessionswould actually take place in New York City. The combination was one ofthose magic instances of musical alchemy inpop: thebackup musicians provided a much grittier, soulful, and R&B-based accompaniment forAretha's voice, which soaredwith apassion and intensity suggesting a spirit that had been allowed to fly loose for the first time.

In the late '60s, Franklin became one of the biggest international recording stars in all of pop. Many also saw Franklin asasymbol of blackAmerica itself, reflecting the increased confidence and pride of African-Americans in the decade of thecivilrights movement and othertriumphs for the black community. The chart statistics are impressive in and of themselves:tenTop Ten hits in a roughly 18-month spanbetween early 1967 and late 1968, for instance, and a steady stream of solid mid-to large-size hits for the next five years after that. HerAtlantic albums were also huge sellers, and far moreconsistentartistically than those of most soul stars of the era. Franklin was able tomaintain creative momentum, in part,because of hereclectic choice of material, which encompassed first-class originals and gospel, blues,pop, and rock covers,from the Beatlesand Simon & Garfunkel to Sam Cooke and the Drifters. She was also a fine, forceful, andsomewhatunderrated keyboardist.

Franklin's commercial and artistic success was unabated in the early '70s, during which she landed more huge hitswith"Spanish Harlem,""Bridge Over Troubled Water," and "Day Dreaming." She also produced two of her most respected,andearthiest, album releases with Live atFillmore West and Amazing Grace. The latter, a 1972 double LP, was areinvestigationof her gospel roots, recorded with James Cleveland andthe Southern California Community Choir. Remarkably,it made the TopTen, counting as one of the greatest gospel-pop crossover smashes ofall time.

Franklin had a few more hits over the next few years -- "Angel" and the Stevie Wonder cover "Until You Come Back toMe"being the mostnotable. Her Atlantic contract ended at the end of the 1970s, and since then she's managed togetintermittent hits -- "Who's Zooming Who"and "Jump to It" are among the most famous. Many of her successes were duets,orcrafted with the assistance of contemporaries such asLuther Vandross. In 1986 Franklin released her follow-up toWho’sZoomin’ Who?, the self-titled Aretha, which saw the single “I Knew YouWere Waiting for Me,” a duet with GeorgeMichael, hitthe top of the charts. There was also another return to gospel in 1987 with One Lord,One Faith, One Baptism.Franklinshifted back to pop with 1989’s Through the Storm, but it wasn’t a commercial success, and neither was1991’s newjackswing-styled What You See Is What You Sweat.

Now solidly an iconic figure and acknowledged as one of the best singers of her generation no matter what her recordsaleswere, Franklincontributed songs to several movie soundtracks in the next few years before releasing the R&B-based ARoseIs Still a Rose in 1998. So DamnHappy followed five years later in 2003 and again saw disappointing sales, but it didgeneratethe Grammy-winning song “Wonderful.” Franklinleft Arista Records that same year after 23 years and started herown label,Aretha’s Records, two years later in 2005. A duets compilation,Jewels in the Crown: All-Star Duets with the Queen,wasissued in 2007, followed by her first holiday album, 2008’s This Christmas Aretha,originally as a Borders exclusive andthendistributed by DMI. The first release on her own label, Aretha: A Woman Falling Out of Love,appeared in the spring of2011.Despite sometimes poor health, she continued to select new projects to work on, ever the institution, herreputationsecureas one of the best singers of the modern era. « hide

Similar Bands: Roberta Flack, James Brown, Nina Simone, Alice Clark, Minnie Riperton

LPs
Aretha Franklin Sings The Great Diva Classics
2014

2.2
3 Votes
A Woman Falling Out of Love
2011

2.8
2 Votes
A Rose Is Still A Rose
1998

2
1 Votes
Who's Zoomin' Who
1985

2.8
2 Votes
Get It Right
1983

2
1 Votes
Jump to It
1982

2
1 Votes
Almighty Fire
1978

2.8
2 Votes
Sparkle
1976

3.5
3 Votes
You
1975

3.5
2 Votes
With Everything I Feel in Me
1974

3.5
2 Votes
Let Me in Your Life
1974

3.3
2 Votes
Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky)
1973

3.3
2 Votes
Young Gifted and Black
1971

4.4
15 Votes
Spirit In The Dark
1970

4.2
8 Votes
This Girl's In Love With You
1970

3.7
5 Votes
Lady Soul
1968

4.1
57 Votes
Aretha Now
1968

4.1
18 Votes
Aretha Arrives
1967

3.2
6 Votes
I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You
1967

4.2
82 Votes
Live Albums
Aretha Live at Fillmore West
1993

3.9
4 Votes
Amazing Grace
1972

4.1
8 Votes
Compilations
The Ultimate Best Of (Remastered)
2011

4.3
2 Votes

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