Aretha Franklin is known the world over as the Queen of Soul Music. In the 1960s, her hit recording "Respect" became an anthem of the civil rights struggle and a theme song for the dawning women's movement.
He musical career began in the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, where her father, Rev. C.L. Franklin was the pastor. Young Aretha sang and played piano, and the passion of Gospel music has remained with her through her subsequent triumphs in secular blues, rock and pop. Franklin began recording when she was only 14. At 19, had won a solos contract with Columbia Records. Columbia tried to promote her as a conventionally smooth pop singer, but Aretha's talent was too volcanic to be contained by the old formulas. In 1966, she moved to Atlantic Records, where she recorded the stirring performances that made her world-famous. Her rendition of songs like "Think," "Chain of Fools, and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" set the standard by which singing in the soul idiom will always be measured. Her breakthrough album was 1967's I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, a Top 40 smash. She continued to deliver hit albums decade after decade, including Amazing Grace (1972) and Who's Zoomin' Who? (1985) and her 1998 effort A Rose is Still a Rose.
Since 1961, she has scored a total of 45 "Top 40" hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and 20 number one hits on the R&B charts. She has recorded 14 million-selling singles, the record for a female artist. Between 1967 and 1982 she had 10 number one albums on the R&B charts, another record for a female artist.
She sang at the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King, and at the inaugurations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. She has won 18 Grammy Awards and was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Despite her international fame, she has always returned to her home town of Detroit. The legislature of Michigan has declared Aretha Franklin's voice to be one of the state's natural resources. All Americans can claim her as a national treasure.
This podcast was recorded during a performance at the 2012 International Achievement Summit in Washington, D.C. It includes a rendition of her signature song "Respect," as well as rare interview footage recorded during the Summit.