The Queen of Soul

Sophie Jeffery

Aretha Franklin died on August 16, 2018 at the age of 76 from a long struggle with pancreatic cancer. After her death, people worldwide mourned the loss of the Queen of Soul, an unforgettable icon.

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, on March 25, 1942, Aretha was the fourth child to Baptist preacher, Reverend Clarence La Vaughan, and Barbara Siggers Franklin, who was a gospel singer. Even when she was a young child, it was adamant that Aretha was musically gifted: both as a singer and as a pianist. She recorded some of her first songs at her father’s church, and even released a small album titled Songs of Faith when she was 14. In 1960, Aretha moved to New York to embark on her musical career. As she rose to fame, Aretha was also becoming to be recognized as civil rights activist, and performed at the funerals for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. Her song “Respect” from the album I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) was released in 1967, and won the singer two Grammy Awards.  One of her most famous songs, “Amazing Grace” sold more than 2 million copies after its debut in 1972, and became the best-selling gospel album at that time. Aretha’s other greatest hits included “Lady Soul,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chain Of Fools,” “Think,” and “Spanish Harlem.”

As expected, Aretha Franklin has won many awards in her career. She has a total of 17 Grammy Awards, some of which were the Lifetime Achievement award, the Hall of Fame award, and the Female R&B Vocal Performance award. She was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and was the first woman to do so. Aretha even has her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Despite her many achievements, Aretha did not have an easy life. Her parents divorced when she was six, and her mother died when she was ten. At the young age of fourteen, Aretha became the mother to her first of four sons. She was also overshadowed in the 1970’s during the disco era, and her father fell into a coma in 1979. Aretha retired in 2017 following a collaboration with Stevie Wonder.

In an eight-hour long funeral fit only for the Queen of Soul, many celebrities mourned Aretha along with her friends and family. Celebrities such as Ariana Grande, Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Hudson, and the Clark Sisters performed some of Aretha’s greatest songs. Aretha was also honored by former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. As President Obama wrote in a letter sent to be read at the funeral, “[Aretha] lifted those of millions empowering and inspiring the vulnerable, the downtrodden and everyone who may have just needed a little love.” President Bush also had a letter sent in to the funeral, which acknowledged that “Aretha was a woman of achievement with a deep character and a loving heart,” Bush said. “She made important and lasting contributions to American music with her gospel-inspired style and distinctive voice. Her remarkable talent helped shape our nation’s artistic and cultural heritage.”  President Clinton also remarked that “She lived with courage, not without fear but overcoming her fears. She lived with faith, not without failure but overcoming her failures. She lived with power, not without weakness but overcoming her weaknesses.”

Aretha Franklin may have risen to fame from her music, but she was more than just singer; she helped fight for both civil rights and women’s empowerment, and even though the Queen of Soul has passed away, she will always be in our memories.