Remembering Aretha Franklin

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While your knowledge of Aretha Franklin may begin and end at her mega-hit cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect,” her influence on music and American society spanned much farther.

August 16. Franklin passed at her home in Detroit following an astonishing career as a leader in the Black community, fashion icon, music legend, and woman warranting respect on all fronts.

The Queen of Soul

Franklin started dabbling in music singing hymns at her father’s church. When she was 12, he became her manager and she signed a record deal with J.V.B. records.

She went on to tour with The Soul Stirrers and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

At 18, Franklin signed with Columbia records, where she released, “Today I Sing the Blues.”

From there, she went on to produce countless chart-topping singles and singed with labels Atlantic, Artista, and RCA.

In her lifetime, Franklin was nominated for 44 Grammys, winning 18. Additionally, she received three Grammy Special Awards including the Legend Award, Lifetime Achievement Award, and MusiCares Person of the Year. Franklin also was the recipient of three American Music Awards, three NAACP Image Awards, and a TV Land Award.

Franklin holds the title of being the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Adding to her extensive list of achievements, she has honorary degrees from Harvard and New York University and honorary doctorates in music from Princeton, Yale, Brown, University of Pennsylvania, Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory of Music, and the University of Michigan.

Civil Rights Leader

“Respect,” upon its release, became an anthem for racial and gender movements across America.

Franklin even toured with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself and performed, “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” at his funeral in 1968.

In 1970, Franklin advocated for the release of activist and Communist Party member, Angela Davis. In an interview with Jet, Franklin offers to provide bail for Davis and speaks on black liberation.

For his presidential inauguration in 2009, Barack Obama requested Franklin to perform.

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Franklin is as much of a fashion icon in death as she was in life, donning a new outfit for each of her three viewings at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, this past week.

Fashion always played a major role in Franklin’s performances and presence on stage. From cowboy boots to fur coats and boas, her outfits matched her commanding vocal presence.

During Franklin’s funeral on Friday, many guests honored her memory through their eye-catching garb.

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Empowering Women

“Respect” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” tote themselves as two of the greatest feminist anthems of all time.

Originally recorded by Otis Redding, Franklin and her sister transformed the tune into a cry for just what she states, respect.

Through these songs, her shameless independence, support of women’s rights to express themselves in any way, and embrace of sexuality, Franklin embodied a new era of woman.

Remembering Aretha

Prominent figures from all backgrounds and walks of life gathered on Friday in remembrance of Franklin.

Names including Bill Clinton, Fantasia, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Hudson, and many others attended and performed at the service.

Although moments of grief inevitably occurred, the service proved to be more of a celebration of life than mourning of death.

Fans crowded around the church and dozens of pink Cadillac’s surrounded the area referencing her song, “Freeway of Love” in which she sings, “We goin’ ridin’ on the freeway of love in my pink Cadillac.”

Reportedly, individuals danced and clapped along during the processional.

Franklin played a pivotal role in paving the way for women and people of color. She empowered millions through her actions and music in life and will continue to do so in death.