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A Look Back On The Life Of "Queen Of Soul" Aretha Franklin, Plus All The Celebs Who Paid Tribute To Her

Legendary African-American soul singer Aretha Franklin has passed away at the age of 76, leaving behind a shining legacy of musical contributions that will never be forgotten. 



#tbt Newark, NJ 1970. #ArethaSings

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Born on March 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee—home to the United States' most historic musical movements in blues and rock and roll—Aretha was surrounded by music all her life. Her father was a pastor and gospel singer, while her mother had also possessed musical talent. 

Although her parents went their separate ways when Aretha was but a tender six-year-old, she spent this time polishing her vocal prowess and soon found herself singing in and touring with her father's church choir alongside her sisters.

The piano eventually became this multi-talented performer's instrument of choice and throughout her youth, was exposed to the likes of singer, songwriter and record bigwig Smokey Robinson, New Orleans' Mahalia Jackson a.k.a. the Queen of Gospel, as well as social and political activists Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jesse Jackson, thanks to her well-connected father. These brave and powerful people of color would prove to be great influences on the singer who had big aspirations. 


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Taking her dreams of musical greatness seriously, Aretha then made the choice to move to New York to begin her career before she had even turned 18. Experimenting with different record labels and producers in her journey to stardom, Aretha finally struck gold when she signed onto Atlantic Records in 1966 and partnered with the great Jerry Wexler (the journalist-turned-record producer behind the likes of Led Zeppelin, Dire Straits, Ray Charles, and The Allman Brothers). 

The two produced her first Top 1 hit, "I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You," and just two years later, Aretha gained her industry moniker, the Queen of Soul, for her impeccable talent. By the time the 70s rolled around, Aretha's name had become synonymous to widely recognized songs like "Respect," "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," "I Say a Little Prayer," and "Think." Her 1972 album, Amazing Grace, would subsequently become the world's best-selling gospel album. 

Besides her musical successes at this time, Aretha simultaneously became an icon of the era's feminist and civil rights movement, with many of her songs serving as anthems of racial, gender, and sexual liberation and freedom. 


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The 80s would later on give way to a musically transformed Aretha, one that managed to integrate the decade's era for post-disco sounds and pop and her naturally powerful vocals that allowed her to retain her popularity. Having solidified a reputation in the industry, Aretha became the first woman to be inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, with numerous accolades to follow. 

In the 90s, she received multiple Grammy awards (she has a total of 18), a Lifetime Achievement Grammy and Kennedy Center Honors, plus the release of her biography, Aretha: From These Roots. Come the new milliennium, Aretha was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and was recognized for being one of the few American artists who could boast of having chart-toppers in every decade. 

At this point in her life, Aretha was not only admired for her talent, but for her personal triumphs, too; her unstable adolesence, early pregnancies, abusive first marriage, divorces, and the tragic death of her father were all public knowledge, yet she had remained strong, focused, and driven throughout the turbulence. 


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The mother of four sons continued performing up to the early 2010s until her failing health took its toll. An advanced form of pancreatic cancer was what eventually extinguished the life of this artistic giant, truly to the dismay of her friends, family, and all the artists she had influenced in her six-decade career. 

Many of today's singers are mourning the death of this icon who paved the way for artists to emerge, and even dream that they could one day be something, to start. As a last farewell to Aretha, we rounded up the most touching tributes to the one and only Queen of Soul penned by her fellow artists, all of whom will keep her legacy alive through their own artistic pursuits. 
















Aretha Franklin. The Queen of Soul. The Icon. The ultimate singers' singer. The greatest singer and musician of my lifetime. The power of your voice in music and in civil rights blew open the door for me and so many others. You were my inspiration, my mentor and my friend. You showed me I could sing the songs I wanted to sing and bring God with me. You've inspired millions everywhere yet never left home, never left church. Today the entire world mourns your home-going and celebrates all the brilliance you left behind. I will forever cherish the moments I spent in your presence. Your indelible impact was earned not only by your incomparable voice but by your bigger than life personality, wit and humor. I say a BIG prayer for you. You will forever have all our RESPECT. Love, Mariah ♥?

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For as long as I can remember, Aretha Franklin has been the absolute zenith, the guiding light, the master for any girl that aspired to sing or even just appreciated someone at the top of their game. I was blessed to have sung with her on more than one occasion and each time I felt that I was in the presence of musical royalty that would forever raise the bar and set the standard. Long live the Queen of Soul through her extraordinary & singular voice and her indelible music. ?????? Desde que tengo uso de razón, Aretha Franklin ha sido el cenit absoluto, la luz de guia, la maestra para cualquier niña que soñaba con cantar o simplemente apreciaba a alguien en la cima de su profesión. Fui bendecida de poder cantar con ella en más de una ocasión y cada vez supe que estaba en la presencia de realeza musical que por siempre elevaría el listón y marcaría el estándar. Que vivía la Reina de “Soul” a través de su voz extraordinaria y singular y su música indelible...????

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Photos from @arethasings