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March 26, 2021

20 Stunning Black and White Portraits of a Very Young Aretha Franklin in the 1960s

The definitive female soul singer of the 1960s, a symbol of black pride, and one of the most influential voices in the history of popular music, Aretha Franklin brought “black” music to an entirely new audience.

Aretha grew up in Detroit where her father was pastor at the New Bethel Baptist Church. She recorded her first album of gospel music at age 14. At 18, legendary talent scout John Hammond brought her to Columbia Records, “Columbia was a white company who misunderstood her genius.”

In 1966, Aretha moves to Atlantic Records and immediately hits her stride, producing a phenomenal body of work. “When I went to Atlantic,” she said, “they just sat me down at the piano and the hits started coming.”

“Respect”, her trademark song written by singer Otis Redding, is an instant hit in 1967, becoming an anthem for both racial pride and women’s rights. Within three years, she has eight crossover hits that reach the Top 10 in both Pop and R&B charts, including “Chain of Fools”, “Think”, and “A Natural Woman”.

On April 9, 1968, she sang “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” at the funeral service of her friend Martin Luther King Jr. A few months later she appears on the cover of TIME, in an article suggesting her husband/manager is abusive. A lawsuit was filed over the article, and her marriage subsequently ended in divorce. After this, she rarely talks to the media.

In 1987, at age 45, Aretha is the first woman inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, having charted more records selling over a million copies than any woman in history.


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