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Aretha Franklin

The sound of R & B/soul music in the late 1960s would have been completely different if not for the career of Aretha Franklin. Aretha was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Her father was C. L. Franklin (a civil rights activist and preacher), and her mother was a piano player and vocalist. Franklin’s family moved to Buffalo, New York and ended up living permanently in Detroit, Michigan. Her father became pastor at the New Bethel Baptist Church and, after her mother’s death, young Aretha would sing solos in the choir. Due to her father’s celebrity, the Franklins’ house was visited by gospel singers and civil rights activists throughout Aretha’s formative years. Her father became her manager when the two toured as part of a “gospel caravan,” which resulted in Aretha signing to J-V-B records to record gospel. Her first album, Songs of Faith, was released in 1956.

In 1960, Franklin wanted pursue a secular singing career, following in the footsteps of Sam Cooke, and signed to Columbia Records. Through the end of 1966, Franklin scored a series of hits but chose to leave the label after her contract ended; she then signed with Atlantic Records. In early 1967 she went to the FAME recording studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama where she recorded many of her most famous songs with the studio’s house band, the Swampers. In April 1967 Franklin’s most iconic song, “Respect,” was released and shot to number 1; it became an anthem of the era. She continued to release hit records and broaden her audience through the 1970s, but left Atlantic in 1980 for Arista Records and eventually signed to RCA in 2014. She sold over 75 million records, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and became the first woman to have 100 total songs on the Billboard Hot R & B/Hip-Hop Songs chart after her cover of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” debuted at number 47 in 2014. Franklin died in 2018.