Celebrating Black History Month
Selected by Women’s Empowerment Committee Member Theresa Taylor
Aretha Louise Franklin was born on March 25, 1942, to Barbara
Siggers and Clarence LaVaughn
(C.L.) Franklin. Franklin began her career as a child singing gospel at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, where her father C.L. Franklin was a minister.
Her father and mother separated in 1948, when Aretha Franklin was just 6 years old because of Mr. Franklin’s infidelities. Her mother returned to Buffalo, New York. Aretha recalls visiting her mother in the summers and Barbara Franklin visited her children often in Detroit. Aretha’s mother died on March 7, 1952, before Aretha’s 10th birthday.
Franklin was the mother of four sons. She first became pregnant at the age of 12 and gave birth in 1955 to her first child, Clarence. In 1957 gave birth to her second child, Edward Derone Franklin. Ms. Franklin did not like to discuss her early pregnancies. It wasn’t until 2019, in one of her handwritten wills that Franklin revealed that the father of both children was Edward Jordan. She had her 3rd child, Ted White Jr, in 1964, and had her youngest son, Kecalf Cunningham, was born in 1970.
At 18 she embarked on a music career as a recording artist for
Columbia. Her career did not
immediately take off until she signed with Atlantic records in 1966. Her commercial hits such as “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)”, “Respect”,”(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, “Chain of Fools”, ‘Think” and “I Say A Little Prayer”, propelled Franklin past her musical peers.
Franklin continued to record acclaimed albums such as I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (1967) Lady Soul )1968) Sprit in the Dark (1970) Young, Gifted and Black (1972) Amazing Grace (1972) and Sparkle (1976).
Franklin signed with Arista Records in 1979. She appeared in the
1980 film The Blues Brothers.
Then she released the successful albums Jump to It (1982) Who’s Zommin’ Who? (1985) and
Aretha (1986) all on the Arista Label. In 1998, Franklin returned to the Top 40 with the Lauryn Hill-produced song “A Rose Is Still a Rose” and then released an album of the same name.
I could go on with so many more songs and hits, but you all can
look it up! Suffice to say she
continued to perform and record up until her death in 2018.
Notably, Ms. Franklin performed for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s
funeral, as she had known him
through her father and his church. Ms. Franklin also performed at the Inauguration of President
Barrack Obama in 2009.
Ms. Franklin died on August 16, 2018. Numerous celebrities in the
entertainment industry and
politicians paid tribute to Franklin, including former U.S. President Barack Obama, who said she “helped define the American experience.”
Ms. Franklin received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1979. And had her voice declared a Michigan “natural resource’ in 1985. She became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences awarded her a Grammy Legend Award in 1991, then the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994. Ms. Franklin was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1994, recipient of the National Medal of Arts in 1999, recipient of the American Academy of achievement’s Golden Plate award presented by Coretta Scott King. She was bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. She was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll legends Hall of Fame in 2005, and the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame in 2015. She was awarded a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation in 2019, posthumously, “for her indelible contribution to American music and culture for more than five decades”. She was the first person to receive such a citation.