Soul Queen – Aretha Franklin

With her inimitable fusion of grace and grit, Aretha Franklin is the definition of soul music. The daughter of renowned Detroit preacher C.L. Franklin, Aretha can testify with all the liberating joy of her gospel roots. She can ache with the sadness of a singer who truly felt the blues, and swing with a playfulness to match her jazz heroes. After nearly a decade honing what would become her singular voice, Franklin, who was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1942, brought a blast of black-and-proud empowerment to the pop charts at the peak of the civil rights era, using the hard-driving grooves of Alabama studio-session legends the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section to counter Motown’s slick crossover sound. Though rarely straying long from gospel in the decades that followed, Franklin made the brassy 1967 anthem “Respect” her calling card and evolved alongside soul itself, gliding from assertive funk jams to hushed quiet-storm ballads to synth-coated pop hits on 1985’s Who’s Zoomin’ Who?. Whether her devastating version of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” or her volcanic interpretation of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” nothing captures Franklin’s range like her trove of covers, which are often so deeply felt that she has all but reclaimed them as her own.

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