Remembering Aretha Franklin, An American Legend

| History
Aretha Franklin
Billboard/Wikimedia Commons

The world recently lost a legend, a star, a singer, and an incredible human being. On August 16, 2018, Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul, passed away at the age of 76. After breaking records and glass ceilings, there is no question about the Memphis native’s place in the history books. It is with great sadness and love that we explore the highlights of her life and legacy. Let’s give more than a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T to this one-of-a-kind soul.

Record Breaker and Holder

Aretha Franklin
Pete Souza/Wikimedia Commons

While her incredible singing voice is her crowning achievement, the records Aretha Franklin broke are nearly as impressive.  By 1977, she already held the record for the most Hot 100 chart appearances by a female artist. Throughout her life, Franklin had 77 songs enter Billboard’s Hot 100. In the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, there was never more than a two year period in which one of Franklin’s songs did not enter the charts.

Among the legend’s many hits, you likely know “Respect,” “Think,” “Spanish Harlem,” “Chain of Fools,” and many more.

Aretha Franklin: A Natural Resource

Aretha Franklin

In 1968, Franklin won her first Grammy Award for her incredible rendition of Otis Redding’s “Respect.” But this was just the first in a long series of wins. Impressively, the iconic singer won the Best Female R&B Vocalist Grammy every single year from 1968 until 1975. Over her career, Franklin was nominated a total of 31 times, winning 17 of them. But her Grammy accolades do not stop there. In 1991, she was presented with the Grammy Legend Award. Then, in 1994, she won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

In addition to her Grammys, Franklin made history once again in 1987 when she was the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. On the Hall’s website, Franklin’s biography begins with “All hail the Queen of Soul.” We believe that’s rather fitting.

Aretha Franklin
The U.S. National Archives

However, not all of Franklin’s achievements were music awards. Numerous prestigious universities, including Harvard and Yale, presented the R&B legend with multiple awards and honorary doctorates. In 2005, Franklin received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush. The award is the nation’s highest civil award, and is awarded for significant contributions to “the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” Finally, she won the MusiCares Person of the Year Award in 2008.

Perhaps the strangest honor ever given to the Queen of Soul was in 1986, when the state of Michigan designated her voice a “natural resource.” No other singer or talent in the history of the world was ever titled and legally made into a natural resource.

Celebrating The Life And Legacy of Aretha

Jennifer Hudson Aretha Franklin
Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

In January 2018, it was announced that Jennifer Hudson (pictured left) will portray the Queen of Soul in a new biopic. The film will not just cover her musical career, but her life as an activist as well. Record producers Clive Davis and Harvey Mason Jr, who both worked on the musical film Dreamgirls, will team up with film producer Scott Bernstein (Straight Outta Compton) to tell Franklin’s story. Hudson won an Oscar back in 2007 as Best Supporting Actress for her role in Dreamgirls.

While prepping, Davis spoke heavily with Franklin about the film, to ensure its accuracy. In a recent interview, following the singer’s death, Davis said, “Going forward, what will be foremost in my mind is, ‘What would Aretha do here? What would Aretha want here?'” It really seems like there’s no better professional team to tell the story of the iconic legend.