There was a time when a woman was considered no more than a food and baby machine. The very idea that a female was capable of, yet alone possessing, complex thoughts, emotions, desires and needs, was considered ludicrous and dangerous. Then along came Queen Aretha.
Queen Aretha destroyed all notions of music and gender. Providing the platform for Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse, Lauren Hill, Alicia keys, Pink, Madonna, Adele, or in short every single female diva after the sixties. Yeah sure, all these artists would have experienced success in their own rights. They were all spectacularly talented individuals. But the sheer force of Aretha Franklin’s popularity across all markets in a segregated and sexist society is the sole reason any of these women experienced the level of success they achieved.
Born in 1942, the daughter of a baptist minister, Aretha would have a troubled childhood, her parents split up when she was just six years old and four years later her mother would die. Soon after Aretha started singing with her fathers church and at the tender age of fourteen released her first album, songs of faith. At sixteen she would tour with the Rev. Dr. martin Luther king and would later sing at his funeral.
At just 18 years of age Aretha would sign with then powerhouse Columbia records who would release her first album in January of 1961. Her time at Columbia was productive but fraught with drama, in the end she would opt out of resigning with them, instead choosing to sign with Atlantic records where her title of the queen of soul would be truly recognized.
In April of 1967 Atlantic records would release a cover of an Otis Redding song, Respect, which shot to number one on the billboard pop charts and became her signature tune as well as a civil and female rights anthem. Aretha Franklin would go on to become not only the queen of soul, but the first female inductee to the rock and roll hall of fame and sing at the inauguration of president Obama.
Up until her death she would continue to be the personification of overcoming societal constraints on women, people of color and, most importantly women of color. her ability to overcome prejudice through music would be the inspiration to countless other females in all avenues of life. It is this legacy that will perhaps stand as the true testament of Queen Aretha and why she will always have respect.