Aretha Franklin, a singer who began her career with gospel music and was later crowned the “Queen of Soul,” died Thursday (Aug. 16) after battling a range of health issues. She was 76.
Often simply called “Aretha,” Franklin got her start in the Detroit church of her pastor father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin. She was first recorded at his New Bethel Baptist Church on the album “Spirituals” at age 14.
“Aretha, like Al Green, is one of the few artists who is universally accepted in the black church,” Bil Carpenter, author of “Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia,” told Religion News Service. “The church often shuns artists who sing R&B as backsliders and reject them when they come back and sing gospel. However, Aretha’s always been given a pass.”
When Franklin, a Memphis, Tenn., native, who was raised in Detroit, was awarded the 2005 Presidential Medal of Freedom by then-President George W. Bush, the citation noted: “Her instantly recognizable voice has captivated listeners ever since she toured with her father’s gospel revue in the 1950s.”
Gospel and soul singer Candi Staton, who traveled on the gospel circuit with Franklin during that decade when they were teens, recalled that her friend was a “gifted singer even as a young girl,” though no one knew then all the hits that would follow with her unique voice.
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