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Music / Aretha Franklin

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Heeeeey! What you want,
Baby, I got it.
—The opening lines of "Respect"

Aretha Louise Franklin, The Queen of Soul (March 25, 1942 - August 16, 2018).

She started her career in the early 1960s. Her breakout hit was "Respect" (1967), a song originally written and recorded by Otis Redding. This song helped define her persona: since it was originally written for a guy, its narrator is naturally more assertive than most female singers were before.

Her other hits include "Think", "Chain of Fools", and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." Some of her many achievements include singing at Martin Luther King's funeral, becoming the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, standing in for Luciano Pavarotti at the 1998 Grammys with an improvised but showstopping operatic number, and singing at Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony in a hat that took on a life of its own and is now kept at the Smithsonian. She has placed at #1 on both VH1's Top 100 Women of Rock n Roll and Rolling Stone's Top 100 Singers of All Time. She has also done duets with the late George Michael and Annie Lennox of The Eurythmics.

Her appearance in The Blues Brothers as the wife of Matt "Guitar" Murphy revamped her career in the 1980s. She reprised the role in Blues Brothers 2000.

She died on August 16, 2018 from pancreatic cancer.

She's the subject of the third season of Genius, played by Cynthia Erivo; the original plan was to cover Mary Shelley, but after Franklin's death it was decided to fast-track her season.

She was also involved with a musical biopic of her life, which was in production for several years, with Jennifer Hudson set to star. The film was released in August 2021.


  • Aretha (1961)
  • The Electrifying Aretha Franklin (1962)
  • The Tender, the Moving, the Swinging Aretha Franklin (1962)
  • Laughing on the Outside (1963)
  • Unforgettable: A Tribute to Dina Washington (1964)
  • Runnin' Out of Fools (1964)
  • Yeah!!! (1965)
  • Soul Sister (1966)
  • Take It Like You Give It (1967)
  • I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (1967)
  • Aretha Arrives (1967)
  • Lady Soul (1968)
  • Aretha Now (1968)
  • Soul '69 (1969)
  • Soft and Beautiful (1969)
  • This Girl's in Love with You (1970)
  • Spirit in the Dark (1970)
  • Young, Gifted and Black (1972)
  • Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky) (1973)
  • Let Me in Your Life (1974)
  • With Everything I Feel in Me (1974)
  • You (1975)
  • Sweet Passion (1977)
  • Almighty Fire (1978)
  • La Diva (1979)
  • Aretha (1980)
  • Love All the Hurt Away (1981)
  • Jump To It (1982)
  • Get It Right (1983)
  • Who's Zoomin' Who? (1985)
  • Aretha (1986)
  • Through the Storm (1989)
  • What You See Is What You Sweat (1991)
  • A Rose Is Still a Rose (1998)
  • So Damn Happy (2003)
  • This Christmas, Aretha (2008)
  • Aretha: A Woman Falling Out of Love (2011)
  • Aretha Franklin Sings the Classics (2014)

Tropes from works by Aretha Franklin:

  • The Ace: Her unofficial honor as the Queen of Soul and vocal abilities during her prime years of the 60s and 70s have kept her very name associated with greatness for decades. For just one example, she is Rolling Stone's pick for best singer of all time. Not best female singer, best singer.
  • The Cover Changes the Meaning: "Respect." It would be "Changes the Gender" if the song had any gendered words in it. As it is, the sentiments of "Respect" do sound different from a woman than they would from a man, and sounded even more different when the song came out.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "Respect" has the line "take care of TCB" (TCB being short for "taking care of business").
  • Female Empowerment Song: Her cover of "Respect" is one of the most iconic examples. It changes the lyrics and singer's gender so that it's now about a woman demanding respect.
    • "Sisters are Doing it for Themselves"
  • New Sound Album: Though known now as the Queen of Soul, prior to her commercial breakthrough in 1967 with I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You, Franklin's material largely focussed on more restrained vocal jazz and blues styles with limited commercial success.
    • She'd do it again in 1985 with Who's Zoomin' Who?, when she decided to see if her soul sound could resonate in the crowded scene of '80s pop, incorporating more conventional R&B. It actually worked out quite well, netting Aretha a Platinum record.
  • Old Master: She was performing up until her last months of life, and was widely considered to be one of the best vocalists on the planet. Stephen Colbert, in the eulogy he said for her on his program, mentioned that when he saw her perform in 2015, he commented, "I said to someone beside me, 'Man, I wish I could have seen her perform in her prime.' ...what an idiot I realized I was when she started singing."
  • Self-Titled Album: She released three separate albums all called Aretha (Her 1961 debut, and albums in 1980 and 1986), and came close to releasing a fourth if not for a colon title (Aretha: A Woman Falling Out of Love in 2011).
  • Signature Song: invoked"Respect", the song most people think of when they think of Franklin's music. "Freeway of Love" also counts as a later example.
  • Spelling for Emphasis: In "Respect", the title is spelled out to emphasize it.
  • Spelling Song: "Respect".
    Find out what it means to me!
  • This Is a Song: "Rock Steady"
    Rock steady, baby
    That's what I feel now
    Let's call this song exactly what it is
  • Vocal Evolution: Natural after decades of professional singing, Franklin's was brought on a little bit prematurely particularly from the mid-1980s through cigarette smoking, which she gave up in the later stages of her life.