The Queen of Soul: Aretha Franklin Remains a
Pioneer in American Music History

Aretha Franklin made a significant mark in the history of American vocal music. For example, she sang at the inauguration of the very first African American president Barack Obama. And she was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Aretha Franklin was popular and accomplished across musical genres.

Most people are aware that Aretha Franklin was crowned the Queen of Soul. Though the question still may linger as to why and what makes her immortal status beyond Rihanna's, Tina Turner’s, or Jennifer Lopez’s. Was it because she won many awards? Because she could sing so well? Or perhaps something else? Franklin was the Queen of Soul because she rose through adversity, she persevered, and because of her undeniable talent.

Aretha Louise Franklin was born March 25th, 1942. This means that she lived through the Civil Rights Movement in the late 40’s to the late 60’s and witnessed the initiation of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013. She witnessed an era of racially motivated attacks against Black people, such as the 16th Street Baptist church bombing which happened in 1962. These are among the major events in Franklin’s lifetime that shaped and affected her. All of these experiences influenced her music and her standing in American society.

Some of Franklin’s most iconic hits like “Think” (1968), “Respect”(1967), and “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman”(1967) were created during adverse circumstances. In 1968 she was named the “Queen of Soul”, just four years after the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This act addressed the fact that she, along with many other successful black people, still had to use a “colored only” bathroom regardless of her status. This being said, racism was very much alive and nowhere near over, considering the assassination of her dear friend, Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968. “Think” was released that same year.

Along with being successful musically during the 60’s, she also was heavily involved with the Civil Rights movement at the same time. All this considered, Franklin was like a queen—a queen that rose through this treacherous adversity.

Franklin grew up in a church where her father was a minister. From a very young age she sang in the church choir with her father. At 18 she left home to pursue her passion to become a singer. She received her father’s blessing to transition from religious gospel music to secular music. Even though she had raw talent on her side, this transition was a difficult one for Franklin and she originally attempted to fit into the specific genre of blues/jazz. Many music critics still had a keen eye on her. The label Atlantic Records pursued her. When she began to work with the label, the music producers prompted Franklin to mold her own flair. She did this by combining her gospel background with her rhythm and blues style, which is the concoction of soul music. When this happened, she skyrocketed onto the pop music scene.

When she was struggling with getting started, she watched many other recording artists surpass her. Yet she persevered showing true patience, leadership, and humility.

Lastly, Franklin was in the long run an extremely successful musician. She crafted soul music as we know it today. And that’s why so many awards honor her... awards such as the National Medal of Arts, the Presidential Medal of freedom, 18 Grammy awards and an additional 44 Grammy nominations. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked her number one on their list of Greatest Singers of All Time.

Aretha Franklin received all these honors because she made herself undeniable. Her first musical project was the Sound of Aretha Franklin in 1956 at the age of 14 under the management of her father. Her very last performance was September 13, 2017. That is nearly 61 years of deeply rooted commitment. She dedicated most of her life to music and demonstrated longevity and consistency in her talent.

In conclusion, Aretha Franklin was indeed worthy of her supreme title. She earned this title because she carried the true essential traits of a queen. She had a major impact on music of many genres, both during and after her career, and on the church and the Black community. Franklin passed at the age of 76. At least 1,000 people attended her funeral. It was filled with tributes from artists like Ariana Grande, a 27- year-old pop star, to Stevie Wonder, a 70-year-old legendary singer-songwriter.

And now you know why millions of Americans across the country loved, and still love, Aretha Franklin.

[Sources: Britannica ; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum; Associated Press ]

Aretha Franklin's legacy will live forever! Great piece Katina! – Cristian , UW Madison (2021-03-06 13:03)
I learned so much from reading this piece. Keep up the great work! – Virginia , UW Madison (2021-03-06 13:06)
Amazing writing! – Kadjata , Madison East High School (2021-03-06 13:12)
Wow! Thank you for writing this. Great work. – Leilani , Madison West High School (2021-03-06 13:16)
Thank you for sharing the story of such an amazing woman with us Katina! I can’t wait to read your next article! – Leila , UW Madison (2021-03-06 13:33)
This is so interesting! Thank you so much for teaching me about Aretha Franklin, Katina – Christy Zheng , McFarland (2021-03-06 13:36)
Thank you for sharing the story of such an amazing woman with us Katina! I can’t wait to read your next article! – Leila , UW Madison (2021-03-06 13:40)
Aretha Franklin should always be remembered! Amazing reporting Katina! – Alan , Cruz (2021-03-06 13:52)
Very informative and well written, great job! – Sydney , Madison West High School (2021-03-06 19:40)
This is a great piece, Katina! You really captured her essence and her story. Thank you! – Josepha Da Costa , Madison La Follette High School (2021-03-11 13:49)
Katina! I found this to be very informational. As much as I have heard about Aretha Franklin through the years, your article has really enlightened me. I was very engaged and strongly believe she is the queen of soul now that I have read your article. Great Job! – Tracy L. Williams , Sun Prairie (2021-03-11 14:56)
This was so interesting to read, Katina. I have always been a fan of Aretha Franklin, and your article has helped me learn new things about her. Also! You have a very engaging writing voice, and I look forward to reading more of your work in future issues. Thank you! – Mary Klehr , Madison (2021-03-12 07:01)
WOW!!! This is a well written piece on Aretha Franklin. By Me being a Music lover , specially Soul and Jazz, I really thought that I knew enough about Aretha Franklin. Katina, this piece that You have written has enlightened me even more!!! This is really good work and research that You have done!!! You’re only 15 years old, but what a Gift and Talent GOD HAS BLESSED You with!!! Oh, I can’t wait to read more of your writings that you have in your treasure chest!!! You are a true Blessing . Stay True, Just, and Fair and see how far GOD WILL TAKE You!!! Thank You! – Frederick Williams Sr. , Fox Point (2021-03-12 10:06)
Katina, Fantastic job! I am honored to know you. Keep writing and we all will keep reading! – Shilo Gibson , Sun Prairie (2021-03-14 12:02)
Mrs. Gibson shared this with me, and I'm so glad I got to read it! This is really well written, and I learned a lot! I hope you are proud of yourself. :) – Sara Hilliger , Sun Prairie (2021-03-15 08:27)
This was a well written article! I learned a few new things, thank you very much! – Yoanna , La Follette High School (2021-03-27 21:13)
Nice piece. I was i Madison till last year and once saw Katina Present in creekside on Black victims of violence (about 2017). Keep posting. – Raghu , Dallas area, TX (2021-05-12 19:15)