Legendary Women of Detroit: The Legacy Of Aretha Franklin

Jessica Ramos Jessica Ramos

Legendary Women of Detroit: The Legacy Of Aretha Franklin

In honor of International Women’s Day, March 8th, we’re celebrating the legacy of Aretha Franklin.

This month is Women’s History Month, and today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day. In honor of all the impactful and talented woman from Detroit, we decided to highlight a few of them this month. This week, we’ll be highlighting the late legend, Aretha Franklin, or the “Queen of Soul,” who earned a total of 18 Grammy awards and 44 nominations throughout her legendary career.

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She originally got her start in Detroit as a young gospel singer, touring with her father, a famous pastor, and taught herself how to play piano by ear. Franklin’s music career took her around the country, first starting out at J.V.B. records in Detroit before following the Chicago gospel circuit, and eventually following her dreams of being a pop singer to New York. She even sang for Martin Luther King Jr. on his tour and eventually, at his funeral. When Franklin signed with Colombia records, her first single for them, “Today I Sing The Blues” eventually reached the Top 10 chart for “rhythm and blues.”

Her time with Colombia was when her career really took off. With Colombia Records, she recorded a number of her biggest singles, mostly produced by Clyde Otis. Her style reached a number of genres like pop, blues, gospel, and jazz, which was something of a change for a Black artist who were oftentimes pigeon-holed in their career into one type of music.

“Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody” became her first international hit and by 1962, she had one album under her belt with two more commissioned. She got her infamous title as the “Queen of Soul” when radio personality Pervis Spann announced it on the air. In 1979, she even got her own star in Hollywood.

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When she moved to sign with Atlantic Records, her career skyrocketed even more with her debut album, I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You. She also released top-selling albums Lady Soul and Aretha Now with top singles like “Chain of Fools” and “I Say A Little Prayer.”

She wasn’t only an impactful and talented musician, but is a long-lasting influence on contemporary artists. She was also a dedicated activist for the civil rights, Native American rights, and the women’s movement. She passed away at her Detroit home in 2018 from advanced pancreatic cancer, and thousands paid their respects to Franklin at her funeral.

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During her life, alongside a multitude of Grammy wins and number one songs, she also was the first woman to be honored at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, had her voice declared a “natural resource” in Michigan, and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2010, Rolling Stones even named her at the top of their “100 Best Singers of All Time” list. It’s no wonder. If you’ve for some reason forgot the power of Aretha Franklin’s voice, check out the Spotify Playlist dedicated to the Queen of Soul’s music below.



[featured image via Shutterstock]