A Rockapaedia Obituary
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Aretha Franklin died, aged seventy-six at her home in Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A. on 16th August 2018 surrounded by friends and family. The cause was reported to be pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor.
A few days earlier Aretha had been reported to be gravely ill and was under hospice care . Stevie Wonder, Jesse Jackson and ex-husband Glynn Turman visited her on her deathbed.
A memorial service was held at New Bethel Baptist Church on 19th August and a private funeral was arranged for 31st August following a two-day public viewing of Aretha Franklin's casket at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. Numerous celebrities in the entertainment industry and politicians paid tribute to her, including former U.S. president Barack Obama who said she "helped define the American experience". Civil rights activist and minister Al Sharpton called her a "civil rights and humanitarian icon".
Aretha had canceled a series of concerts due to health reasons. During an outdoor Detroit show, she asked the audience to "keep me in your prayers". In 2018, she canceled a series of shows, citing doctor's orders. Aretha Franklin's final performance was at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City during Elton John's 25th anniversary gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation during November 2017.
Aretha Franklin was born on 25th March 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.A. Her father was a Baptist minister and circuit preacher, and her mother was an accomplished piano player and vocalist. Her parents both had children, three in total, from outside their marriage. The family relocated to Buffalo, New York, when Aretha was two years old. Before her fifth birthday, in 1946, the family permanently relocated to Detroit, Michigan. Aretha's parents had a troubled marriage due to stories of her father's philandering and in 1948, the couple separated, with Barbara relocating back to Buffalo with her son, Vaughn, from a previous relationship. Aretha's mother died of a heart attack in 1952, before Aretha's tenth birthday. The news of her mother's death was broken by her father, who had gathered Aretha and her siblings in the kitchen to tell them. Several women, including Aretha's grandmother, Rachel, and Mahalia Jackson took turns helping with the children at the Franklin home. During this time, Aretha learned how to play piano by ear.
Aretha Franklin attended High School but later dropped out during her sophomore year.
Just after her mother's death, Aretha Franklin began singing solos at New Bethel, debuting with the hymn, "Jesus, Be a Fence Around Me." When Aretha Franklin was twelve years old 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 sign her first recording deal with J.V.B. Records, where her first album, Songs of Faith, was released in 1956. In 1958, Aretha Franklin and her father traveled to California, where she met Sam Cooke. At the age of sixteen, Aretha Franklin went on tour with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and in 1968 sang at his funeral.
As a young gospel singer, Aretha Franklin spent summers on the circuit in Chicago, staying with Mavis Staples' family. After turning eighteen Aretha Franklin confided to her father that she aspired to follow Sam Cooke in recording pop music, and moved to New York. Serving as her manager, he 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. During this period, Aretha Franklin would be coached by a choreographer to prepare for her pop performances. Before signing with Columbia, Sam Cooke tried to persuade Aretha Franklin's father to have his label, RCA, sign Aretha Franklin. He had also been courted by local record label owner Berry Gordy to sign Aretha Franklin and her elder sister Erma to his Tamla label. Aretha Franklin's father felt the label was not established enough yet. Aretha Franklin'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 chart.
In January 1961, Columbia Records issued Aretha Franklin's first secular album, Aretha: With The Ray Bryant Combo. The album featured her first single to chart the American Billboard Hot 100, "Won't Be Long", which also peaked at number seven on the Rythm & Blues chart. Mostly produced by Clyde Otis, Aretha Franklin's Columbia recordings saw her performing in diverse genres such as standards, vocal jazz, blues, doo-wop and rhythm 'n' blues. Before the year was out, Aretha Franklin scored her first top forty single with her rendition of the standard, "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody", which also included the Rythm & Blues 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, Aretha Franklin was named as a "new-star female vocalist" in DownBeat magazine. In 1962, Columbia Records issued two more albums, The Electrifying Aretha Aretha Franklin and The Tender, the Moving, the Swinging Aretha Aretha Franklin.
In the 1960s during a performance at the Regal Theater, a WVON radio personality announced Aretha Franklin should be crowned, "the Queen of Soul". By 1964, Aretha Franklin began recording more pop music, reaching the top ten on the Rythm & Blues chart with the ballad "Runnin' Out of Fools" in early 1965. She had two Rythm & Blues 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 Franklin was netting $100,000 from countless performances in nightclubs and theaters. Also during that period, she appeared on rock and roll shows such as Hollywood A Go-Go and Shindig!. However, she struggled with commercial success while at Columbia. Label executive John H. Hammond later said he felt Columbia did not understand Aretha Franklin's early gospel background and failed to bring that aspect out further during her period there.
In November 1966, after six years with Columbia Records, Aretha Franklin chose not to renew her contract with the company and signed to Atlantic Records. In January 1967, she travelled to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to record at FAME Studios and recorded the song, "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)", backed by the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. The song was released the following month and reached number one on the Rythm & Blues chart, while also peaking at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100, giving Aretha Franklin her first top-ten pop single. The song's b-side, "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man", reached the Rythm & Blues top 40, peaking at number thirty-seven. In April, Atlantic issued Aretha's version of Otis Redding's "Respect", which shot to number one on both the Rythm & Blues and pop charts. "Respect" became her signature song and was later hailed as a civil rights and feminist anthem.
Aretha Franklin's debut Atlantic album, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, also became commercially successful, later going gold. Aretha Franklin scored two more top-ten singles in 1967, including "Baby I Love You" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman". Her rapport with producer Jerry Wexler helped in the creation of the majority of Aretha Franklin's peak recordings with Atlantic. In 1968, she issued the top-selling albums Lady Soul and Aretha Now, which included some of Aretha Franklin's most popular hit singles, including "Chain of Fools", "Ain't No Way", "Think" and "I Say a Little Prayer". That February, Aretha Franklin earned the first two of her Grammys, including the debut category for Best Female Rythm & Blues Vocal Performance. On 16th February Aretha Franklin was honored with a day named for her and was greeted by longtime friend Martin Luther King Jr. who gave her the SCLC Drum Beat Award for Musicians two months before his death. Aretha Franklin toured outside the US for the first time in May 1968, including an appearance at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam where she played to a near hysterical audience who covered the stage with flower petals. She appeared on the cover of Time magazine in June 1968
Aretha Franklin's success expanded during the early 1970s, during 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 and Black, and her gospel album, Amazing Grace, which sold more than two million copies. In 1971, Aretha Franklin became the first Rythm & Blues performer to headline Fillmore West, later that year releasing the live album Aretha Live at Fillmore West. Aretha Franklin's career began to experience problems while recording the album, Hey Now Hey, which featured production from Quincy Jones. Despite the success of the single "Angel", the album bombed upon its release in 1973. Aretha Franklin continued having Rythm & Blues success with songs such as "Until You Come Back to Me" and "I'm in Love", but by 1975 her albums and songs were no longer top sellers. After Jerry Wexler left Atlantic for Warner Bros. Records in 1976, Aretha Franklin worked on the soundtrack to the film Sparkle with Curtis Mayfield. The album yielded Aretha Franklin's final top 40 hit of the decade, "Something He Can Feel", which also peaked at number one on the Rythm & Blues chart. Aretha Franklin's follow-up albums for Atlantic, including Sweet Passion, Almighty Fire,1978, and La Diva in 1979, bombed on the charts, and in 1979 Aretha Franklin left the company.
In 1980, after leaving Atlantic Records, Aretha Franklin signed with Clive Davis's Arista Records and that same year gave a command performance at London's Royal Albert Hall in front of Queen Elizabeth. Aretha Franklin also had an acclaimed guest role as a waitress in the 1980 comedy musical The Blues Brothers. Aretha Franklin's first Arista album, Aretha in 1980, featured the No. 3 Rythm & Blues 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'". Aretha Franklin achieved a gold record—for the first time in seven years—with the 1982 album Jump to It. The album's title track was her first top-40 single on the pop charts in six years. ]
In 1985, inspired by a desire to have a "younger sound" in her music, Who's Zoomin' Who? became her first Arista album to be certified platinum. The album sold well over a million copies thanks to the hits "Freeway of Love", the title track, and "Another Night". 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 Franklin provided vocals to the theme songs of the TV 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. Aretha Franklin's 1991 album, What You See is What You Sweat, flopped on the charts. She 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, Aretha 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, Aretha Franklin earned international acclaim for her performance of "Nessun dorma" at the Grammy Awards, filling in at the last minute for Luciano Pavarotti, who had cancelled after the show had already begun. Her final Arista album, So Damn Happy, was released in 2003 and featured the Grammy-winning song "Wonderful". In 2004, Aretha Franklin announced that she was leaving Arista after more than 20 years with the label. To complete her Arista obligations, Aretha Franklin 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.
Aretha Franklin performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" with Aaron Neville and Dr. John for Super Bowl XL, held in her hometown of Detroit in February 2006. She later 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, Aretha 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.
In 2014, Aretha Franklin was signed under RCA Records, controller of the Arista catalog and a sister label to Columbia via Sony Music Entertainment, and was working with Clive Davis. An album was planned with producers Babyface and Danger Mouse. In September 2014, Aretha Franklin performed to a standing ovation, with Cissy Houston as backup, a compilation of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" on the Late Show with David Letterman. Aretha Franklin's cover of "Rolling in the Deep" was featured among nine other songs in her first RCA release, Aretha Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics, released in October 2014. In doing this, she became the first woman to have 100 songs on Billboard's Hot Rythm & Blues/Hip-Hop Songs chart with the success of her cover of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep", which debuted at number forty-seven on the chart.
In December 2015, Aretha Franklin gave an acclaimed performance of "You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman" at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors during the section for honoree Carole King, who co-wrote the song. During the bridge of the song, Aretha Franklin dropped her fur coat to the stage, for which the audience rewarded her with a mid-performance standing ovation. She returned to Detroit's Ford Field on Thanksgiving Day 2016 to once again perform the national anthem before the game between the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions. Seated behind the piano, wearing a black fur coat and Lions stocking cap, Aretha Franklin gave a rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" that lasted more than four minutes and featured a host of improvizations. Aretha Franklin released the album A Brand New Me in November 2017 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.