Aretha Franklin (March 25, 1942 – August 16, 2018) was an American singer, songwriter, civil rights activist, actress, and pianist. Franklin began her career as a child singing gospel at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan where her father C. L. Franklin was minister. At age 18, Aretha Franklin embarked on a secular career recording for Columbia Records. However, she achieved only modest success. Franklin found commercial success and acclaim after signing with Atlantic Records in 1966. Hit songs such as “Respect”, “Chain of Fools”, “Think”, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)”, and “I Say a Little Prayer”, propelled Franklin past her musical peers. By the end of the 1960s, Aretha Franklin had come to be known as “The Queen of Soul”.
The Franklins had a troubled marriage due to Mr. Franklin’s infidelities, and they separated in 1948. At that time, Barbara Franklin returned to Buffalo with Aretha’s half brother, Vaughn. After the separation, Aretha
recalled seeing her mother in Buffalo during the summer, and Barbara Franklin frequently visited her children in Detroit. Aretha
‘s mother died of a heart attack on March 7, 1952, before Aretha’s tenth birthday. Several women, including Aretha’s grandmother, Rachel, and Mahalia Jackson took turns helping with the children at the Franklin home. During this time, Aretha
learned how to play piano by ear. She also attended public school in Detroit, going through her freshman year at Northern High School, but dropping out during her sophomore year. Aretha’s father’s emotionally driven sermons resulted in his being known as the man with the “million-dollar voice”. He earned thousands of dollars for sermons in various churches across the country. His celebrity status led to his home being visited by various celebrities. Among the visitors were gospel musicians Clara Ward, James Cleveland, and early Caravans members Albertina Walker and Inez Andrews. Martin Luther King Jr., Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke all became friends of C. L. Franklin, as well. Singer Clara Ward was romantically involved with Aretha’s father, though “she preferred to view them strictly as friends”. Ward also served as a role model to the young Aretha
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