On January 3, 1987, Aretha Franklin was the first female artist inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Known as the “Queen of Soul,” she is still one of the most honored artists in Grammy Award history, with 18 Grammys under her belt. Until earlier this year, she had the record for the most Billboard Hot 100 hits of any female artist, that included 20 No. 1 singles. Nicki Minaj recently beat Franklin’s 40-year-long record.
Aretha Louise Franklin was born on March 25, 1942, in Memphis, TN. Her parents were both gospel singers and her father was also a reverend. During her formative years, her parents split up after the family’s move to Detroit, MI. Franklin and her four siblings grew up singing in their father’s church. Considered a musical prodigy, she released her first album, “Songs of Faith” in 1956, and started traveling in her father’s revival show with artists such as Sam Cooke.
In 1961, she married her first husband, Ted White, who was also her manager and writing partner. They moved to New York City and she landed a record deal with Columbia Records. Her second album, “Aretha: With The Ray Bryant Combo,” had moderate success, but not the traction that she and her manager husband desired. As a result, she moved to Atlantic Records in 1966 and had her first Top 10 hit, “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You).”
Aretha Franklin started to rule the charts in the late 1960s. In 1967, she released her now-iconic cover of an Otis Redding original, “Respect.” It topped both the R&B and pop charts and won Franklin her first two Grammy Awards. Her other Top 10 hits at the time included “Baby I Love You,” “Think,” “Chain of Fools,” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” In 1968, her nickname became “Lady Soul,” and she was celebrated by many as a symbol of black pride. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. presented her with a special award for inspiring so many Americans with her music.
She continued topping the charts in the early 1970s and, in 1972, she returned to gospel music with the album, “Amazing Grace,” which sold more than two million copies. From 1968 to 1975, Aretha Franklin took home eight consecutive Grammy Awards for Best R&B Vocal Performance, starting with “Respect” (1968) and ending with “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing” (1975).
After becoming the first female artist inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, Franklin has continued to put out hit records and wow crowds with her riveting performances. Additionally, in 2005 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and then became the second woman ever to be inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame. Although Franklin announced her retirement in 2017, she is not altogether done with music quite yet. She plans on opening up a nightclub in her hometown of Detroit!