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R-E-S-P-E-C-T for Aretha

Who hasn’t danced to “Chain of Fools,” hollered out the chorus of “Respect” or swayed while singing “(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman”? The music of Aretha Franklin—who passed away at age 76—touched just about every person of our generation, but especially females. At a moment in our culture when women were claiming their independence, her songs became the soundtrack.

“I didn’t think my songs would become anthems for women, but I’m delighted,” Aretha told Time magazine last year. She also said, “”We (women) have the power. We are very resourceful. Women absolutely deserve respect. I think women and children and older people are the three least-respected groups in our society.”

Her spectacular voice was also closely linked with the civil rights movement: She sang at Dr. Martin Luther King’s funeral in 1968 and took the stage in January 2009 to perform “My Country Tis of Thee” at President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Regardless of one’s race or gender, we could all agree that her music brought us together.

Singing gospel as a child infused Franklin’s music with a remarkable soulfulness, and over the decades she found stunning success. Aretha had a staggering 112 singles hit the Billboard charts, won 18 Grammy Awards, and sold over 75 million records around the world, making her one of the best-selling musical artists of all time. Her status in the field was such that she was the first female performer inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Is it any wonder this woman was called the Queen of Soul?

Tell us your favorite performance of hers in the comments as we remember her.

Janet Siroto

 

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