Aretha Franklin: Memorable Milestones in the Queen of Soul’s Career

Aretha Franklin was a shining light in soul music and the women’s liberation and civil rights movements. Take a look back at the life of one of the greatest performers of all time, who passed away on August 16 at the age of 76.

Aretha Franklin in 1992Photo: Mark Reinstein/Shutterstock

The Life and Times of Aretha Franklin

March 25, 1942: Aretha Louise Franklin is born in Memphis, Tennessee. She is the fourth of five children.

1955: At the age of 12, she gives birth to the first of her four sons.

1956: Releases her first album, Songs of Faith, at the age of 14. It’s recorded live at New Bethel Baptist Church where her father, C.L. Franklin, is the reverend.

1961: She moves to New York City and signs with Columbia Records. Her self-titled, second album is released. Two of its tracks make the R&B Top 10.

1966: After a few years of moderate success, she signs with Atlantic Records with the help of her first husband and manager, Ted White. She records “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” with the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section at FAME Studios in Alabama. The song reaches no. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100.

1967: Her run of hit singles begins with “Respect,” an empowered cover of an Otis Redding track. It becomes a landmark recording of the feminist movement, spends two weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 and earns Franklin her first two Grammys. Dominance of the pop charts also earns her the title “The Queen of Soul.”

1968: Performs “Precious Lord” at the funeral of her friend, Martin Luther King Jr.

1972: Returns to her gospel roots with Amazing Grace. It becomes the best-selling gospel album of all time.

1977: With the emergence of disco and younger singers like Donna Summer and Chaka Khan, her popularity wanes.

1979: After a string of chart failures, she leaves Atlantic Records. She signs to Arista Records.

1980: Has a notable cameo in The Blues Brothers, which helps revive her career.

1985: Returns to the top of the pop charts with the single “Freeway of Love.” Her 33rd album, Who’s Zoomin’ Who?, features a more danceable pop sound.

1986: Releases her follow-up, entitled Aretha. Her duet with George Michael, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” hits no. 1 on the Billboard Top 100.

1987: Becomes the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

1993: Performs at the inauguration of Bill Clinton.

1994: Receives the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and becomes a Kennedy Center Honoree.

1998: Replaces Luciano Pavarotti to sing “Nessun dorma” at the Grammys. Her performance wins her international acclaim.

2005: Then-commander-in-chief George W. Bush awards her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

2008: Receives her 18th Grammy Award nomination for “Never Gonna Break My Faith,” a duet with Mary J. Blige. She becomes one of the most honoured artists in history.

2011: Releases her first album on her own label, A Woman Falling Out of Love.

Aug. 16, 2018: After years of poor health, she dies in her Detroit home at the age of 76.

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