In 2011, Rolling Stone listed Aretha Franklin as the No. 1 Greatest Singer of All Time, an honor that was long overdue in the eyes of her fans. Since she first hit the scene more than 40 years ago, she has been considered a legend and the living embodiment of soul music. Franklin’s musical and performance style combines a belty, powerhouse, mezzo-soprano sound with a charismatic, almost evangelistic interpretive style reminiscent of James Brown. In fact, she and Brown arguably created this deeply soul-stirring style, which is considered the essential signature sound of R&B. This, combined with an uncanny ability to find songs that suit her voice to perfection, has made her one of those unforgettable, once-in-a-generation singers.
Franklin’s soul and gospel roots came from a childhood spent singing in her father’s church. By the time she was 18, she was singing for Columbia Records, but it wasn’t until seven years later in 1967, that she hit the charts with “Respect,” “Natural Woman” and “Think.” By the 1960s, she was being dubbed “The Queen of Soul” and throughout the next four decades, Franklin stayed at the top of the profession, with scores of No. 1 singles and a veritable cabinet full of Grammy Awards. In 2012, Legacy Recordings celebrated Franklin’s 70th birthday with “Knew You Were Waiting: The Best of Aretha Franklin 1980-1998.” The album featured 15 of her mega-hits, including duets with Annie Lennox, Elton John, Whitney Houston and others. In recent years, Franklin has had to curtail her tour dates due to health problems. Ticket holders fortunate enough to have seen her in concert say that it’s one of the all-time great musical experiences, so it’s a safe bet that once she gets back to the performing arena, she’ll be singing once again to sold out crowds.