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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, she epitomized soul at its most gospel-charged. Her astonishing run of late-'60s hits with Atlantic Records -- "Respect," "I Never Loved a Man," "Chain of Fools," "Baby I Love You," "I Say a Little Prayer," "Think," "The House That Jack Built," and several others -- earned her the title "Lady Soul," which she has worn uncontested ever since. Yet as much of an international institution as she's become, much of her work -- outside of her recordings for Atlantic in the late '60s and early '70s -- is erratic and only fitfully inspired, making discretion a necessity when collecting her records.

Franklin's roots in gospel ran extremely deep. With her sisters Carolyn and Erma (both of whom would also have recording careers), she sang at the Detroit church of her father, Reverend C.L. Franklin, while growing up in the 1950s. In fact, she made her first recordings as a gospel artist at the age of 14. It has also been reported that Motown was interested in signing Aretha back in the days when it was a tiny start-up. Ultimately, however, Franklin ended up with Columbia, to which she was signed 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 Top 40 single, "Rock-a-bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody") but never truly breaking out as a star. The Columbia period continues to generate considerable controversy among critics, many of whom feel that Aretha's true aspirations were being blunted by pop-oriented material and production. In fact, there's a reasonable amount of fine items to be found on the Columbia sides, 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 to follow, and suffered in general from a lack of direction and an apparent emphasis on trying to develop her as an all-around entertainer, rather than 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. As part of that plan, he had her record her first single, "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)," at Muscle Shoals in Alabama with esteemed Southern R&B musicians. In fact, that was to be her only session actually at Muscle Shoals, but much of the remainder of her '60s work would be recorded with the Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section, although the sessions would actually take place in New York City. The combination was one of those magic instances of musical alchemy in pop: the backup musicians provided a much grittier, soulful, and R&B-based accompaniment for Aretha's voice, which soared with a passion 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 as a symbol of black America itself, reflecting the increased confidence and pride of African-Americans in the decade of the civil rights movement and other triumphs for the black community. The chart statistics are impressive in and of themselves: ten Top Ten hits in a roughly 18-month span between 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. Her Atlantic albums were also huge sellers, and far more consistent artistically than those of most soul stars of the era. Franklin was able to maintain creative momentum, in part, because of her eclectic choice of material, which encompassed first-class originals and gospel, blues, pop, and rock covers, from the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel to Sam Cooke and the Drifters. She was also a fine, forceful, and somewhat underrated keyboardist.

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

Franklin had a few more hits over the next few years -- "Angel" and the Stevie Wonder cover "Until You Come Back to Me" being the most notable. Her Atlantic contract ended at the end of the 1970s, and since then she's managed to get intermittent hits -- "Who's Zooming Who" and "Jump to It" are among the most famous. Many of her successes were duets, or crafted with the assistance of contemporaries such as Luther Vandross. In 1986 Franklin released her follow-up to Who’s Zoomin’ Who?, the self-titled Aretha, which saw the single “I Knew You Were Waiting for Me,” a duet with George Michael, hit the top of the charts. There was also another return to gospel in 1987 with One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism. Franklin shifted back to pop with 1989’s Through the Storm, but it wasn’t a commercial success, and neither was 1991’s new jack swing-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 record sales were, Franklin contributed songs to several movie soundtracks in the next few years before releasing the R&B-based A Rose Is Still a Rose in 1998. So Damn Happy followed five years later in 2003 and again saw disappointing sales, but it did generate the Grammy-winning song “Wonderful.” Franklin left Arista Records that same year after 23 years and started her own label, Aretha’s Records, two years later in 2005. A duets compilation, Jewels in the Crown: All-Star Duets with the Queen, was issued in 2007, followed by her first holiday album, 2008’s This Christmas Aretha, originally as a Borders exclusive and then distributed by DMI. The first release on her own label, Aretha: A Woman Falling Out of Love, appeared in the spring of 2011. Despite sometimes poor health, she continued to select new projects to work on, ever the institution, her reputation secure as one of the best singers of the modern era. ~ Richie Unterberger & Steve Leggett, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Take A Look: Complete On Columbia

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Comments

Kcer
rsomazzi1972
Two jive turkeys out there... one wants dry toast and the other four fried chickens and a coke...
arondielvald o n
respect the DIVA!!!
My favorite female vocalist of all time! Mom said I was singing Lady Soul's jams age 2!
Great music love it.
Hail to the Queen*978*3m 1 4 y ~
Happy Birthday Lady of Soul wishing you many more to come.
Love this version of Respect! The Queen of Soul!
Take a load off dawgy im grateful
Kirk franklin
A Real True Diva Talent Beauty Experience Soul Rhythm Everything positive The One And Only Queen of Soul The First Lady of Soul Music Aretha Franklin
Timeless!
The Undisputed QUEEN OF SOUL! My favorite female vocalist of all time! No one can match her in any way!
Yougotit going on
Love this woman and her music.
BOW DOWN!!!!!
Nobody can touch Aretha! Nobody, period. I love this song.
Good old song
Respect we all what thT
Played that song to my x at our wedding..?
Sang that song Aretha no one can sang as good as you. You go girl!!!!
Aretha Franklin has ALWAYS been great. She WILL ALWAYS be great. And thats a NATURAL FACT!!! All the critics & all the purists have been left in her dust. & the Civil Rights Movement was a triumph for the WHOLE WORLD, not just the Black community!!! I was there, & I will be forever grateful to its heroes, known and unknown.
SHES The one who sings it !!??? I LUVV THIS SONG
All im asking for is R E S P E C T!
Aside from her music, she was a pioneer in the civil rights movement, she always stood up for what she believed in. You don't see that anymore, everybody wants to follow the status quo. God bless this beautiful woman's soul.
Aretha is the Queen of soul!!!!! whoever said they don't understand her appeal, has to question their life choices. If you can't appreciate Aretha, not only for her soulful vocals and amazing presence and personality that shines through her songs, I'm not sure you even know what real music is. THIS is real music. And barely discernible? Before the internet, how many songs did people even know the lyrics to? LOL. You need to reevaluate your life, seriously.
I'll take Aretha, Dionne Warwick and Roberta Flack over any of the new artist.
Aretha what can u say queen of soul
This that GET RIGHT song... R E S P E C T!!
They don't make soul singers like they used to ...what happened?
The Real Re Re!!! Sing it Re Re!!! I ♥ her ♫!
jerrodsdad37 2 1
Never understood the appeal of Ms Franklin. The music world seems to adore her, but for an artist, who at best, has barely discernible lyrics, I do not see the appeal of any of her music
Bad Girl, (REAL TALK)
Aretha's sassy soul full sexyness cannot be tamed, truly one of the most inspiring greats
*Sassy Sexyness*
#Iconic Love me some Aretha... There's NO other....
real. straight forward... if only more current artists sung with such straight forward heart!... grew up spinning this on an old record player... thankful my Dad let me use his vinyl, this is classic ... soul.
frederica.br i d g e t t e
She the best
frederica.br i d g e t t e
I love her songs they are real
Make somemore new songs
Yoursongisaw e s o m e
Your song is so sosodeep
You go
Youareaqueen
Aretha has such a soulful moving voice. Love all her gospel hits!
Aretha is a goddest
1224012991
The queen! Saw her in concert! AMAZING!!
Everything to God in prayer. Yes Lord.
jeffreymqs64 1
If you'd like to make extra cash using your computer check out BLUDOS.COM you can make money by filling out surveys. It's free to start.
I agree, she is awesome!
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