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The Queen Of Soul: Aretha Franklin

By Maja Hebeler.



“Respect”, “I Say a Little Prayer”, and “Think” are just some of Aretha Franklin’s many hits. With 45 albums, 131 singles, and 18 Grammy Awards, she is one of the greatest singers of all time. Her career spans over six decades and many of her songs are now considered classics, but not only this makes her an icon according to me; Aretha stood up for feminism and the civil rights movement as well. She became a symbol of hope for equality and respect. As her own website said: “She is both a 20th and 21st century musical and cultural icon known the world over simply by her first name: Aretha.” This is why she is also called the Queen of Soul.


Aretha Franklin (1942-2018) was born in Tennessee. Her father was a preacher and her mother was a gospel singer. Aretha’s talent became apparent at an early age when she started singing and playing the piano at her father’s church. James Cleveland, Clara Ward, and Mahalia Jackson were three famous gospel singers that she looked up to when she was younger. It didn’t take long until Aretha’s own career took off.


I think the major work that made Aretha Franklin iconic was her unique cover of the song “Respect”, released in 1967. It was originally recorded by Otis Redding in 1965. The song became Aretha’s signature anthem, supporting the civil rights movement and the feminism movement. "When Aretha Franklin released ‘Respect', it was a time where there was a lot of segregation in the music industry. Even though that segregation existed, she was able to rise above that segregation,” said a professor at the University of Detroit-Mercy. "It didn't matter whether you were male, female, black or white. Everybody can relate to ‘Give me some respect'."


The song hit Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 in June 1967 and stayed there for two weeks. It is heard in more than a dozen films and TV-shows, and after all these years, ‘Respect’ is still sung all over the world. Last year Aretha told the Detroit Free Press about the song: “I don’t think it’s bold at all, I think it’s quite natural that we all want respect – and should get it.”

An artist for me is someone who wants to make their voice heard, someone who wants to tell a story, make a statement, convey a feeling, help, or just entertain people with their music. Aretha Franklin is an artist. Not only did she make great music, but she also stood up very early for such an important thing like equality, which I think is really good. That is the best compliment I can give to her.


I don’t have any big criticism to give Aretha. Of course there is always something that a person could do better, but I can’t come up with anything specific for her. She is a role model for so many people. Her music and her messages are very important and she went to many events supporting what she believed in. “The soul singer regularly performed at civil rights events and was there to support Martin Luther King Jr. during his rallies,” the online magazine Global Citizen wrote. After all, Aretha Franklin is called the Queen of Soul for a reason.


I believe Aretha Franklin impacted the world in many ways. Her music was and still is an inspiration for so many artists. For instance, in 1987, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; as the first female artist ever. She has also had a great influence on modern soul, gospel, R&B, dance music, and rock.

But on top of everything, Aretha used her art to make a change in the world. “Her force was both cultural and political, her love and advocacy for black people was undeniable and her feminism unshakable. Before there were Black Lives Matter and #Metoo, the Queen was challenging us to ‘think’ and ‘respect’ ourselves, and to become better partners, better citizens and better humans,” said John Sims, an american artist and producer.


Aretha Franklin helped women and black people fight for their rights and not give up on the equality they should have. Like former president Barack Obama said in 2015: “American history wells up when Aretha sings.” The Queen of Soul is an icon that will be remembered.