Aretha Franklin, A Queen Who Served Her People

“Being a queen is not all about singing, and being a diva is not all about singing. It has much to do with your service to people”

Black and white portrait of Aretha Franklin in a dress with her open gently stretched open

Aretha grew up in Detroit, Michigan, a beacon for Black music. She was the daughter of a minister, who was known to have a powerful voice, so much so that he attracted the attention of civil activists and musical artists. They would visit and perform in Minister Franklin’s living room and Aretha often snuck out of bed to listen to artists like Dinah Washington, Count Basie, and Mahalia Jackson. Aretha’s rise to fame happened during two important movements: civil rights in the 1960s and the women's liberation movement in the 1970s. Revered as the best in her field at 22, Aretha Franklin earned the reputation of “Queen of Soul '' and was recognized as the best in her field for over 50 years. Singing at Martin Luther King Jr’s funeral in 1968, and in 1972 she released Amazing Grace, which is still the best-selling gospel album ever. Aretha mastered Jazz, spirituals, pop, and Latin music and she was a gifted pianist and songwriter. In 1998, Aretha filled in and performed at the Grammys receiving a standing ovation, and in 2009 she sang My Country Tis of Thee at the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Aretha’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T is considered one of the greatest hits of all time and its lyrics spoke of equal rights in ways that made it an anthem of both gender and racial equality. Aretha continued to use her spotlight to shed light on gender inequality and civil rights issues, never forgetting her core values or her service to people.


Source: Black Trailblazers by Bijan Bayne

Article written and researched by Xvante Fitzhugh

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