We Remember Aretha Franklin

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin has sadly passed away at the age of 76. She died of an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer. The tributes, condolences, and warm prayers for the family are pouring in. Before we get into some of those, a little about Aretha and the amazingly successful life she led...

Aretha was born in Memphis, TN on March 25th 1942. Very fitting for the Queen of Soul to be born in the hometown of soul music. Her father was a Reverend and she first started out singing in church. She started out in the choir and made her way to being a soloist. She was 14 years old when she made her very first album, which was indeed a gospel album. Aretha's mother was also a gospel singer and clearly it ran in the family! The Franklin family moved to Detroit when Aretha was 2 years old and has been her home base ever since. She is one of five children.

A young Aretha in the 60s

Franklin first signed with Columbia records in 1960 where she sang what they called "unthrilling", "polite" songs. While she had a couple top ten R&B singles such as "Won't Be Long", nothing that was a smash hit that put her on the map until she signed with Atlantic Records. It was there that she worked with producer Jerry Wexler and made some of her biggest chart smashing hits. She started off with “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” and that song is said to have changed everything for her and the direction her music was going in.


Franklin started ushering out other soul classic songs such as “Think,” “Chain of Fools,” and her version of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” written by Carole King, Gerry Goffin and Jerry Wexler. Then it was 1967 that the song that became the anthem for the civil rights movement and women's rights movement, was born. That song of course is "Respect". Even though the song was not originally Aretha's, it was originally done by Otis Redding, Aretha made it her own and really shook that culture at that time with her powerful rendition. It became a timeless classic that she will forever be remembered and known for. Wexler, her long time producer, when asked about the impact of the song, said "Respect’ had the biggest impact, truly global in its influence, with overtones for the civil-rights movement and gender equality. It was an appeal for dignity combined with a blatant lubricity. There are songs that are a call to action. There are love songs. There are sex songs. But it’s hard to think of another song where all those elements are combined.”


Aretha Franklin had a long and successful career full of many highs. Some of her greatest hits include:

  • I Say A Little Prayer
  • Chain of Fools
  • Think
  • Respect
  • (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
  • Freeway of Love
  • I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)
  • Until You Come Back To Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)

Aretha also made an iconic appearance in a movie back in the 80s, "Blues Brothers". She stole the show with her scene, singing her song "Think". She followed up the role with another appearance in Blues Brothers' second film in 2000 where she sang "Respect". The 80s original film was the best though. Take a look at her famous scene:


After the sad passing of Aretha Franklin on Thursday August 16th, 2018, there have been an outpouring of thoughts, prayers, and of course "R.E.S.P.E.C.T-ful" condolences. Even President Trump started off a meeting yesterday with sending his deepest condolences to the family of Aretha:


In addition hundreds of tweets poured out over Twitter to honor and remember Aretha. There was no shortage of celebrities and high profile figures that wanted to pay their respects to Aretha by remembering their times with her, highlighting her accomplishments, and how much of an influential woman she was here in America. Here are some of the respects paid to her on Twitter:


Aretha Franklin will always be the Queen of Soul and remembered for not only her powerful and beautiful music but her humanitarian efforts as well. She was an advocate for multiple charities such as: Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes, Candies Foundation, Feeding America, as well as the Grammy's MusiCares. 

The Hollywood Walk of Fame awarded Aretha with a star in 1979. In addition she has received numerous honorary degrees. One from Harvard in 2014, Princeton in 2012, Yale in 2010, Brown University in 2009, University of Pennsylvania in 2007, Berklee College of Music in 2006, New England Conservatory of Music in 1997 and University of Michigan in 1987. Wayne State University also awarded Franklin an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in 1990 and Bethune-Cookman University awarded her an honorary Doctor of Law degree in 1975.

Aretha Franklin performing

We here at WRKO 680AM and iHeart Media want to send our deepest condolences to Aretha Franklin's family. We remember her for being a pioneer of soul music, a compassionate individual through her humanitarian work, and of course a strong voice for civil and women's rights. You'll always be remembered Aretha for the wonderful things you've done.

If you'd like more on Aretha Franklin, our sister station, WKAF 97.7FM has a great tribute including some of music's top performers paying their tributes. For more visit their site, HERE.

As for the funeral/memorial arrangements. It has been reported that Franklin's family is planning a public memorial service in Detroit. Arrangements are being handled by Swanson Funeral Home of Detroit.

-Producer Lightning


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