As a child, Franklin and her sisters, Carolyn and Erma, sang at her father's Detroit-area church and made her first recordings at the age 14. She signed with Columbia Records after being discovered by legednary A&R man John Hammond. In the early 1960s, Franklin had a few popular songs, most notably "Rock-a-bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody." However Columbia really wanted her as a jazz singer and the results never gave full rein to Franklin's talents. However her greatest and most innovative work was yet to come.
After moving to Atlantic Records in 1967, Franklin teamed up with producers Jerry Wexler and Arif Mardin, resulting in some of the most influential R&B recordings of the 1960s, including "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)", a much more soulful and impassioned song than most of her earlier work. By the late 1960s, Franklin had earned the nickname "The Queen of Soul", having become an internationally famous artist and a symbol of pride for the African American community. Franklin said herself of this period; 'When I went to Atlantic, they just sat me down at the piano and the hits started coming'
She released numerous Top Ten hits in the late 1960s and early 1970s, dabbling in gospel music, blues music, pop music, psychedelic music and rock and roll, including notable covers of songs by The Beatles ("Eleanor Rigby"), The Band ("The Weight"), Simon & Garfunkel ("Bridge Over Troubled Water"), Sam Cooke and The Drifters. Live at Fillmore West and Amazing Grace were two of her most influential full-length releases, the latter a double LP of live gospel music recorded in a Los Angeles Batist church. Surprisingly she never made it to number one in the UK pop charts - the best result beng a number four with her version of Burt Bacharach's I Say a Little Prayer in 1968
Among her most successful hit singles from this era were "Chain of Fools", "You Make me feel Like a Natural Woman", "Think", "Baby I Love You", "The House That Jack Built", and "Respect", which became her signature song. After the R&B category was added to the Grammy Awards in 1968, she was virtually unchallenged, winning eight successive awards for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance; she later added three more Grammies in this category in the 1980s.
In the early 1970s, her music mellowed slightly, though losing nothing of its power, and she continued the hugely successful relationship with Wexler and Mardin while beginning to take a greater role in producing her work. A partnership with Quincy Jones led to a disappointing album in 1973 You. But it still produced a standout track Angel, written by her sister Carolyn which became a soul classic.
She returned to working with Wexler, but her last Atlantic LP You was released in 1976. Wexler had now left Atlantic and the partnership was over. Despite working with artists of the stature of Curtis Mayfield, popularity and critical success waned during the mid to late 1970s and the 1980s, though she scored several hits, often with partners (such as Luther Vandross). Most critics dismiss her post-Atlantic material as far inferior to the legendary recordings of the mid to late sixties.
She married Ted White in 1962 and he became her manager during her years with Columbia Records. The marriage ended in 1969 and she has always refused to answer questions about it. A Time Magazine cover story in 1968 led to a lawsuit from Ted White over allegations that he had roughed her up in public. The affair made her guard her private life even more jealously and she gave no interviews for several years after that. She lives today in Houston.
Aretha Franklin, Queen Of Soul - Mark Bego, London 1989
- Download sample of "Chain of Fools"
Aretha Franklin was sued for breach of contract in 1984 when she was unable to open in the Broadway musical "Sing, Mahalia, Sing," mainly because of her phobia of flying.
Discography - the Atlantic years
|1967||I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You||Prod: Jerry Wexler|
|Resect, Drown In My Own Tears, I Never loved A Man The Way I Love You, Soul Serenade, Don't Let me Lose This Dream, Baby Baby Baby, Dr Feelgood, Good Times, Do Right Woman Do Right Man, A change is gonna come|
|1967||Aretha Arrives||Prod: Jerry Wexler|
|Satisfaction, You Are My Sunshine, Never Let Me Go, 96 Tears, Prove It, Night Life, That's Life, I Wonder, Ain't nobody Gonna Turn Me Around, Going Down Slow, Baby I Love Ya|
|1968||Lady Soul||Prod: Jerry Wexler|
|Chain of Fools, Money Won't Change You, People Get Ready, NIki Hoeky, You Make Me feel Like a Natural Woman,Since You've Been Gone (Sweet Sweet Baby), Good To Me as I Am To You, Come Back Baby, Groovin, Ain't No Way|
|1968||Aretha Now||Prod: Jerry Wexler|
|Think, I Say A Little Prayer, See Saw, Night Time is The Right Time, You Send Me, You're a Sweet, Sweet Man, I Take What I Want, Hello Sunshine, A Change, I Can't See Myself Losing You|
|1968||Aretha in Paris||Prod: Jerry Wexler|
|Satisfaction, Don't Let Me Lose This Dream, Soul Serenade, Night Life, Baby I Love You, Groovin, You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman, Come Back Baby, Dr Feelgood, Since You've Been Gone (Sweet Sweet Baby), I Never Loved A Man the Way I Love You, Chain of Fools, Respect,|
|1969||Soul 69||Prod: Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd|
|Ramblin, Today I Sing The Blues, River's Invitation, Pitiful, Crazy He Calls Me, Bring It on Home To Me, Tracks of My Tears, If You Gotta Make A Fool Out of Somebody, Gentle on My Mind, So Long, I'll Never Be free, Elusive Butterfly|
|1969||Aretha's Gold||Prod: Jerry Wexler|
|I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You, Respect, Dr Feelgood, You Make Me feel Like a Natural Woman, Chain Of Fools, Since You've Been Gone (Sweet Sweet Baby), Ain't no Way, Think, You Send me, The House That Jack Built, I Say A Little Prayer, See Saw|
|1970||This Girl's in Love With You||Prod: Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, Arif Mardin|
|Son of a Preacher Man, Share Your Love With Me, Dark End Of The Street, Let it Be, Eleanor Rigby, This Girl's in Love with You, It Ain't Fair, The Weight, Call Me, Sit Down and Cry|
|1970||Spirit in the Dark||Prod: Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, Arif Mardin|
|Don't Play That Song, The Thrill is Gone (From Yesterday's Kiss). Pullin, You And Me, Honest I Do, Spirit in the Dark, When the Battle is Over, One Way Ticket, Try Matty's That's All I Want From You, Oh No Not My Baby, Why I Sing The Blues|
|1971||Aretha Live at Fillmore West||Prod Jerry Wexler and Arif Mardin|
|Respect, Love The One, You're With, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Eleanor Rigby, Make it With You, Don't Play That Song, Dr Feelgood, Spirit in the Dark, Reach out and Touch|
|1071||Aretha's Greatest Hits||Prod: Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, Arif Mardin|
|Spanish Harlem, Baby I Love You, You Make Me feel Like a Natural Woman, Don't Play That Song, Dr Feelgood, Let It Be, Do Right Woman Do Right Man, Respect, Chain of Fools, I Say a Little Prayer, Bridge Over Troubled Water, I Never loved A Man The Way I Love You, You're All I Need to Get By, Call Me|
|1972||Young Gifted and Black||Prod: Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, Arif Mardin|
|Oh Me Oh My, Day Dreaming, Rock Steady, Young Gifted and Black, All the King's Horses, A Brand New me, April Fools, I've Been Loving You Too Long, First Snow at Kokomo, The Long and Winding Road, Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time, Border Song|
|1972||Amazing Grace||Prod: Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin, Aretha Franklin|
|Mary Don't You Weep, Precious Lord Take My Hand, You've Got a Friend, Old Landmark, How I Got Over, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, Amazing Grace, Precious Moments, Climbing Higher Mountains, Remarks by Rev C L Franklin, God Will Take Care of You, Wholly Holy, You'll Never Walk Alone, Never Grow Old|
|1973||Hey Now Hey||Prod; Quincy Jones, Aretha Franklin|
|Hey Now Hey, So Swell When You're Well, Angel, Sister From Texas, Mister Spain, That's The Way I feel About You, Moody's Mood, Just Right Tonight|
|1974||Let Me in Your life||Prod: Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, Arif Mardin, Aretha Franklin|
|Let Me in Your Life, Every Natural Thing, Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing, I'm in Love, Until You Come Back To Me, The Masquerade is Over, With Pen in Hand, Oh Baby, Eight Days on the Road, If You Don't Think, A Song For You|
|1975||With everything I feel in me||Prod: Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, Arif Mardin, Aretha Franklin|
|Without Love, Don't Go Breaking My Heart, When You Get Right Down To It, You'll Never Get to Heaven, With Everything I Feel in Me, I Love Every Little Thing About You, Sing it Again - Say it Again, All of These Thing, You Move Me|
|1975||You||Prod: Jerry Wexler, Aretha Franklin|
|Mr DJ, It Only Happens (When I Look at You), Walk Softly, You Make My Life, Without You, The Sha-La Bandit, You, You Got All the Aces, As Long as You Are There|