Aretha Franklin, Queen Of Soul, From Gospel Choir To Hall Of Fame Diva, Passes At 76

ARETHA LOUISE FRANKLIN, who traveled from the choir of her father’s church to become one of the titans of Gospel and the Queen Of Soul, passed away today (8/16) of a heart attack at the age of 76. Born MARCH 25th, 1942 in MEMPHIS, TN, FRANKLIN’s father, CLARENCE LaVAUGHN — who went by the nickname C.L. — was a roving preacher from SHELBY, MS, while her mother, BARBARA, was an accomplished piano player and vocalist.

FRANKLIN’s signing to ATLANTIC RECORDS in 1967 set the stage for a series of hits that included the pre-feminist anthem, “Respect,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” and “Think,” among others. Her records included a total of 112 charted singles on BILLBOARD, including 77 HOT 100 entries, 17 Top 10 Pop singles, 100 R&B hits, and 20 #1 R&B singles as the most charted female artist in history. FRANKLIN also garnered 18 GRAMMY AWARDS and a total of 75 million sales worldwide. FRANKLIN was inducted into the ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME in 1987 – the first female performer to enter those hallowed halls – the U.K. MUSIC HALL OF FAME in 2005, and the GMA GOSPEL MUSIC HALL OF FAME in 2012. She finished in the Top 10 of ROLLING STONE’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists Of All Time, placing #9, and topped their survey of the 100 Greatest Singers Of All Time.

The top-selling albums, “Lady Soul” and “ARETHA Now,” which were both released in 1968, produced some of FRANKLIN’s best-known songs, including “Chain Of Fools,” “Ain’t No Way,” “Think,” and “I Say A Little Prayer.” She earned her first two GRAMMYs, including Best Female R&B Vocal Performance — an award she’d go on to win eight consecutive years — and Best Rhythm And Blues Recording, both for “Respect.” Starting in ’68, she won Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for “Chain Of Fools,” “Share Your Love With Me,” “Don’t Play That Song,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Young Gifted And Black,” “Master Of Eyes,” and “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing.” She’d go on to win that same category in 1982 (“Hold On, I’m Comin’”), 1986 (“Freeway Of Love”), and 1988 (“Aretha”), earning both a GRAMMY LEGEND AWARD (1991) and a GRAMMY LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD (1994) as well as her own KENNEDY CENTER HONORS in ’94.

Leaving ATLANTIC to sign with CLIVE DAVIS’ ARISTA RECORDS in 1980 jump-started her career, marked by a command performance at ROYAL ALBERT HALL in front of QUEEN ELIZABETH. FRANKLIN’s role in the popular “Blues Brothers” movie also helped introduce her to a brand-new audience. “Love All The Hurt Away,” released in 1981, brought her a GRAMMY for her cover of SAM & DAVE”s “Hold On, I’m Comin.’” The title track to “Jump To It” gave FRANKLIN her first Top 40 single in a half-dozen years.

Her fifth ARISTA album, “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” became her first-ever to be certified PLATINUM in 1985, thanks to the hits “Freeway Of Love” and “Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves,” the cover of the EURYTHMICS hit. “ARETHA,” its successor, produced the hit singles, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Jimmy Lee,” and “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me,” her global smash duet with GEORGE MICHAEL. In 1998, she scored a Top 40 hit with the LAURYN HILL-produced “A Rose Is Still A Rose,” then earned worldwide acclaim for her fill-in performance of “Nessun Dorma” at the GRAMMY AWARDS, stepping in at the last minute for LUCIANO PAVAROTTI when throat problems forced him to cancel his appearance.

In 2011, FRANKLIN started her own indie label, ARETHA’S RECORDS, releasing the album, “ARETHA; A Woman Falling Out Of Love,” then signed to RCA RECORDS, reuniting with CLIVE DAVIS for a new album with producers BABYFACE and DANGER MOUSE.

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ARETHA FRANKLIN is survived by four sons: CLARENCE (born when she was 14 from an unknown father); EDWARD (whose father also has never been identified); KECALF CUNNINGHAM, a CHRISTIAN rapper who sometimes opens for his mom (with KEN CUNNINGHAM); and TED WHITE JR. (with first husband TED WHITE) – a professional guitarist known as TEDDY RICHARDS, who often plays with her.