Remembering Aretha Franklin

NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Friday the 17th of August, 2018.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Tributes continue to pour in for “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin. She died yesterday at age 76.

Her career spanned more than half a century. She recorded hundreds of songs and dozens of hits. Clearly, she’s one of the best singers of her generation—a national treasure.

EICHER: Aretha Franklin started young, singing at her father’s church. As a child, she belted out powerful gospel songs. But it was in church music that she honed what would become her iconic sound.

Here’s WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin with a brief tribute to Franklin’s legacy.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Aretha Louise Franklin was born in 1942 to Barbara and C. L. Franklin. Her mother was a pianist and vocalist and her father a minister. It was at her father’s church, Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, that the young Franklin began her prolific career—singing gospel.

MUSIC: Precious Lord (Take My Hand)

But Franklin did not have an easy life. Her mother, Barbara, left home

when Franklin was 7 and died three years later. Franklin bore her first son when she was 12 and had her second son two years later. The Franklin home was a stopping point for singers and civil rights activists, including Martin Luther King Jr. While still a teen, Franklin toured with her father and King.

Franklin’s career in secular pop music started in 1962 after she turned 18. By the time she turned 24, Franklin had achieved wide success with her album I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You. It featured the hit song “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman”—which reached Number 1 on the R&B chart and Number 9 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

MUSIC: Natural Woman

Shortly after her success with “Natural Woman,” Franklin’s record company released her version of Otis Redding’s “Respect.” The song became her signature, and both the civil rights and feminist movements claimed the song as their anthems.

MUSIC: Respect

Franklin’s success continued through the 70s and 80s as she became known as the Queen of Soul. Her 1972 gospel album—Amazing Grace—sold two million copies, earning double platinum status. It won her the 1973 Grammy Award for Best Soul Gospel Performance and as of 2017 remained her top-selling album.

MUSIC: Amazing Grace

Franklin won 17 other Grammys and sold 75 million records. She had more than 100 singles in the Billboard charts, including 17 Top 10 pop singles. Twenty singles became Number 1 R&B hits.

In 1987, she became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In 2005, George W. Bush presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In 2009, she sang at President Barack Obama’s first inauguration.

MUSIC: My Country Tis of Thee

In 2012 Franklin was inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Rolling Stone magazine also listed her as one of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

Franklin began struggling with health problems in 2010 and last year announced her retirement from touring. She released her last album, A Brand New Me, in November 2017. Recorded with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, it reached number five on the Billboard Top Classical Albums chart.

MUSIC: A Brand New Me

Franklin died Thursday morning at her home in Detroit, surrounded by family. She leaves behind four adult sons.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke) In this July 27, 2010 photo, Aretha Franklin performs at The Mann Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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