When thinking of influential women in music, one would be remiss to overlook Aretha Franklin.
The Queen of Soul was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in 1987, the second year of its existence. Her powerful, emotive voice wore her Baptist gospel roots as a badge of honor. Indeed, Franklin sang from her very soul and spirited her audiences away with the rich timbre of her voice. Franklin is one of the genuine examples of the power of music in action. She could make you forget your troubles, cry along with your heartbreak, emote your longing or celebrate your love.
Franklin passed away from advanced stage pancreatic cancer Thursday, Aug. 16 at the age of 76 in her Detroit, Michigan home. A well-rounded artist, she leaves behind a legacy of work that spans multiple entertainment mediums, all of which are worth exploring to help overcome the sadness of her loss.
Perhaps the most obvious option is listening to her music. After all, there is plenty to choose from, as Franklin began her career at the tender age of 14 and continued performing until her death. Not sure where to start? You can’t go wrong with hits such as “Respect,” “Chain of Fools,” “Spanish Harlem,” and “You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman).” For a comprehensive catalog of her works, Spotify’s “This is: Aretha Franklin” playlist will cycle you through them all.
For new takes on favorites, try “A Brand New We: Aretha Franklin,” an album where Franklin performs with instrumentation provided by the magnificent Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. You can also check out her famous duets on the 2007 compilation “Jewels In the Crown: All Star Duets With the Queen.”
Franklin also dipped her toes in the silver screen, with cameos in the Blues Brothers franchise.
In both Blues Brothers movies, she plays the role of tough realist Mrs. Murphy who tries to prevent her husband from joining the band. Her hits “Think” and “Respect” are flawlessly integrated into the script to the point that Franklin seems to be engaged in an argument with her movie husband Matt “Guitar” Murphy. In addition, the natural energy of her voice is enhanced by the colorful choreography, which makes these cameos worth the watch.
For those interested in learning in-depth details about the Queen of Soul’s life and career, her autobiography is a great option. Published in 1998 with writing assistance from David Ritz, “Aretha: From These Roots” tells Franklin’s story in her own words.
Of course, there are plenty of biographical texts also available, including another by David Ritz himself available in audiobook form, “Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin.”