Aretha Franklin dies at age 76. See the tributes from her peers

(August 16, 2018) There are those events in our lives, the ones when we remember years later where we were at the time we heard the news. For soul music fans, today is likely going to be one of those days. Musical royalty has died.  Aretha Franklin, the unquestioned "Queen of Soul," and one of the most iconic singers of her generation, passed away in her hometown of Detroit after a long illness. She was 76.

Ms. Franklin’s musical legacy is quite simply, peerless. From her teen years as the daughter of the nationally revered Reverend C.L. Franklin, touring the highways and byways of the gospel circuit thrilling audiences with her God-given gift to her early days as a recording artist with Columbia Records - where she was a remarkable interpreter of a whole range of musical styles from jazz, pop, R&B, Broadway and standards - the Memphis-born, Detroit-raised icon has always added her own unique stamp to a unparalleled diversity of music. 

(August 16, 2018) There are those events in our lives, the ones when we remember years later where we were at the time we heard the news. For soul music fans, today is likely going to be one of those days. Musical royalty has died.  Aretha Franklin, the unquestioned "Queen of Soul," and one of the most iconic singers of her generation, passed away in her hometown of Detroit after a long illness. She was 76.

Ms. Franklin’s musical legacy is quite simply, peerless. From her teen years as the daughter of the nationally revered Reverend C.L. Franklin, touring the highways and byways of the gospel circuit thrilling audiences with her God-given gift to her early days as a recording artist with Columbia Records - where she was a remarkable interpreter of a whole range of musical styles from jazz, pop, R&B, Broadway and standards - the Memphis-born, Detroit-raised icon has always added her own unique stamp to a unparalleled diversity of music. 

Signed to Columbia Records in 1960, Aretha recorded a diverse string of a half dozen albums for that label that focused more on her talent as a song stylist, with largely jazzy arrangements. But, while many of those recordings are now cherished by music lovers, at the time they failed to propel her career to the level that her talented warranted.

After a half dozen albums on Columbia, Aretha signed with Atlantic Records in the mid-60s, and she never looked back. Her artistry came to international attention via a non-stop run of now-classic hits. "Respect," "Think," "A Natural Woman,"  "Chain Of Fools," "Until You Come Back To Me" and so many other songs helped shape the music of a generation along with repertoire highlights like her own "Dr. Feelgood (Love Is A Serious Business)," "You Send Me," "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" and "I Say A Little Prayer." 

In 1980, Aretha began her association with Arista Records and the hits continued: "Freeway Of Love," "Who's Zoomin' Who," "Jump To It" (produced by musical pal and friend Luther Vandross), "I Knew You Were Waiting For Me," (a duet with George Michael) and "Willing To Forgive" were just some of the tracks on the 1994 platinum album, "Greatest Hits (1990-1994)." 

Always attuned to current music and yet always maintaining her own musical integrity, Aretha worked with '90s hitmaker Lauryn Hill on her best-sellng "A Rose Is Still A Rose" set alongside hit producers P. Diddy, Dallas Austin, Jermaine Dupri, Daryl Simmons and others; the result - which included her own "The Woman" hailed as "arguably her most soulful performance in years" by All Music Guide - was one of Aretha's best-selling albums, spurred by the response to the title cut, a gold-selling Top 5 R&B and Top 30 pop single. 

As the new century arose, Aretha continued to record and perform, and her gravitas continued to grow to an almost singular level. Even as health forced her to slow down, each performance she gave – including forays into opera, and even an iconic performance at President Obama’s inauguration – were treasured as lifetime memories by her listeners. Franklin battled an undisclosed illness on and off for several years, and last year announced her retirement from live performing.

While fans knew that this day was coming, the reality of the death of such a seminal artist will be felt hard around the world. But Ms. Franklin's incredible discography of more than a half century's worth of performances will live on and be studied by musicologists and cherished by fans for years to come. Godspeed Aretha Franklin.

By Chris Rizik (with thanks to David Nathan)

 

Other Voices

A national treasure to everyone.  But to me personally, Aretha Franklin was my dear, dear friend, my homegirl, and I loved her a lot.  From seeing her as a baby singing and playing at the piano at her father’s home, to her giving  a rousing performance at the White House, she has always been amazing.  No matter how the music has changed over the years, she remained so relevant.

Though never signed to Motown, Aretha was considered part of my family.  We always shared fond memories of the Motor City, life, and just things.
Her passing is not only a tremendous personal loss for me, but for people all over the world who were touched by her incredible gift and remarkable spirit.  

Aretha Franklin will always be the undisputed Queen of Soul, and her legacy will live forever.  

My condolences go out to her sons, other family members, friends and fans.  I will miss her.

Berry Gordy, Founder of Motown

 

America has no royalty. But we do have a chance to earn something more enduring... For more than six decades since, every time she sang, we were all graced with a glimpse of the divine.

Barack and Michelle Obama

 

I can't remember a time when the sounds of Aretha Franklin weren't present in my home. First, I grew up listening to the top R&B hits on vinyl. Pop radio Aretha soundtracked my elementary and early high school years in the 1980s with everything from duets with George Benson to bonafide pop smashes produced by Luther Vandross. Later, in my early 20s, when I began my own crate digging, I discovered the classic Atlantic Recordings and the underrated Columbia albums. Every album from the '60s and '70s was a discovery I relished, because even on the rare occasion when the songs or the productions weren't on-point, Aretha's vocal performance and keys work always, always was.

As her instrument evolved from bell to gospel rasp to smoky and emotive, she doggedly and determinedly found new ways to be great in nearly every popular music genre, including, most impressively, classical, on the spot, no less. In doing so, she taught us how to evolve with time and to demand our flowers while we're here. In her music, she educated us about respect, about how to be properly treated, how to dream of joy and love, how to heal from heartbreak, and ensured we weren't alone in our mistakes and pains. She left us untold treasures to share with generations present and those yet to be born to help them too make it through and learn a thing or two on their journeys. Her personal life was as tumultuous as ours. Her attitudes, passions, drives, and insecurities just as human. And, in being just who she was, this Black church girl from Detroit with the meteoric talent who would be crowned royalty before she was even in her 30s, she made it possible for other Black girls to believe they could aim for the stars while being just who they are too. To aim high and win, to fall and pick yourself up, to ascend and win again, just like the Queen of Soul did for some 60 years, inspiring us all.

L. Michael Gipson, Editor-At-Large, SoulTracks.com 

 

Salute to the Queen. The greatest vocalist I've ever known.

Diana Ross

 

"One of the greatest singers of all time, the Queen of Soul - Aretha Franklin, has gone to be with the Lord and she will be missed greatly. She profoundly influenced Tower of Power throughout the years and opening for her at the Fillmore West back in the early 70's was a highlight in our career. It was during that weekend that she looked me straight in the eye and said "Tower of Power; my favorite band!!!". I just melted right there in front of her. I look forward to seeing her in the eternal heavens, along with so many whom she helped to know the Lord."

Emilio Castillo - Bandleader for Tower of Power

 

Aretha Franklin. The Queen of Soul. The Icon. The ultimate singers' singer. The greatest singer and musician of my lifetime. The power of your voice in music and in civil rights blew open the door for me and so many others. You were my inspiration, my mentor and my friend.

Patti LaBelle

 

From the time that Dinah Washington first told me that Aretha was the “next one” when she was 12-years old until the present day, Aretha Franklin set the bar upon which every female singer has and will be measured.  And she did it with the professionalism, class, grace and humility that only a true Queen could.  I treasured every moment that we spent together from working in the recording studio, to performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, or simply hanging in the kitchen, and I will miss her dearly.  RIP Ree-Ree.  You will reign as the Queen forever.

Quincy Jones

 

What a life. What a legacy! So much love, respect and gratitude. R.I.P.

Anita Baker

 

Aretha Franklin holds a significant place in the collective heart of America. She’s a singular example of what we represent at our best. Her courage as an artist—making her work her life’s foremost endeavor—and her conviction to strive for her greatest potential is an example that this country will always benefit from. It's something that truly defines us in a positive light to the rest of the world. She’s one of those iconic artists that cause most people to remember where they were the very first time they heard her amazing voice. She has reached that highest level as an artist where her voice has become, in a collective and spiritual sense, our voice. In a time when art is increasingly considered a secondary human pursuit, she reminds us that it is the very thing that represents our humanity the best. Aretha Franklin is and will always be a national treasure.

Michael McDonald

 

Aretha Franklin was truly one of the great singers of our time ... She was blessed with a once in a lifetime voice.  A blessing only handed down to a chosen few. I had the pleasure of knowing and sharing some wonderful times with her ... We were label mates on Arista Records ... We had planned to do a duet together and somehow we never got it done. So sad to lose someone who was such and integral part of our history of music. Her music will continue to soothe the souls of everyone across the planet and ring out through the gates of heaven.

Jeffrey Osborne

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