Aretha Franklin, the undisputed Queen of Soul, was born on March 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee. Raised in Buffalo and Detroit, she is the daughter of famous gospel preacher Reverend C. L. Franklin, pastor of Detroits New Bethel Baptist Church. She was greatly influenced as a child by family friends and gospel stars Reverend James Cleveland and Clara Ward.
Franklin first recording was in 1956 on the JVB/Battle label. She was signed to Columbia Records in 1960 by the legendary talent scout Jon Hammond. For Columbia she recorded Wont Be Long, Rock-A Bye Your Baby With Dixie Melody, I Surrender, Dear, Rough Lover, Dont Cry, Baby, Try a Little Tenderness, Trouble in Mind, Runnin Out of Fools and Cant You Just See Me. The nine recordings were all hit the Billboard pop charts, but none cracked the top 40.
It wasnt until Franklin signed with Atlantic Records in 1966, that her signature style was born under the influence of producer Jerry Wexler. During 1967 through 1977, Franklin had her greatest string of success with 15 top ten hits including I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You), Respect (#1, 1967), Baby I Love You, A Natural Woman (You Make Me Feel Like), Chain of Fools, (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since Youve Been Gone, Think, The House that Jack Built, I Say a Little Prayer, See Saw, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Spanish Harlem, Rock Steady, Day Dreaming, Until You Come Back to Me (Thats What Im Gonna Do), and Dont Play That Song.
Franklin signed with Arista in 1980 and reached the top ten again with Freeway of Love, a #3 hit in 1985. And in 1987, she had another #1 hit with a duet performance with George Michael called I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me).
The longevity of her career, versatility of her voice, and undeniable depth of her talent has made Aretha Franklin arguably one of the most distinctive interpreters of American popular song.