Spotlight on: Aretha Franklin

Denver Women's Chorus, Rocky Mountain Arts Association News

Aretha Louise Franklin (March 25, 1942 – August 16, 2018) was an American singer, songwriter, civil rights activist, actress, and pianist. Franklin began her career as a child singing gospel at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, where her father C. L. Franklin was minister. At the age of 18, she embarked on a secular career recording for Columbia Records. However, she achieved only modest success. She found acclaim and commercial success after signing with Atlantic Records in 1966. Hit songs such as “Respect”, “Chain of Fools”, “Think”, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” propelled her past her musical peers. By the end of the 1960s, Aretha Franklin had come to be known as “The Queen of Soul”.

Franklin recorded 112 charted singles on Billboard, including 77 Hot 100 entries, 17 top-ten pop singles, 100 R&B entries, and 20 number-one R&B singles, becoming the most charted female artist in HERstory. Franklin’s other well-known hits include “Rock Steady”, “Call Me”, “Ain’t No Way”, “Spanish Harlem”, “Day Dreaming”, “Jump to It”, and “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” (a duet with George Michael). She won 18 Grammy Awards, including the first eight awards given for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance (1968–1975), and she is one of the best-selling musical artists of all time, having sold more than 75 million records worldwide.

From her time growing up in the home of a prominent African-American preacher to the end of her life, Franklin was immersed and involved in the struggle for civil rights and women’s rights and was also a strong supporter for Native American rights. She quietly and without fanfare supported Indigenous Peoples’ struggles worldwide, and numerous movements that supported Native American and First Nation cultural rights. She provided money for civil rights groups, at times covering payroll, and performed at benefits and protests. Her songs “Respect” and “Natural Woman” became anthems of these movements for social change. Recently, Franklin and several other American icons declined to take part in performing at President Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration as a large-scale act of musical protest.

Franklin received numerous honors throughout her career, including a 1987 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as the first female performer to be inducted, the National Medal of Arts, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was inducted to the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005 and to the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2012. In 2010 Rolling Stone magazine ranked her number one on their list of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time” and number nine on their list of “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”.

The Denver Women’s Chorus’ small ensemble Take Note! will be performing “THINK” from the 1980 film The Blues Brothers in honor of the extraordinary contributions Aretha has made to global music and social justice causes. Join us THIS WEEKEND for our upcoming concert Nevertheless We Persist: Singing our Stories for 35 Years at Central Presbyterian Church of Denver JANUARY 25th at 7:30pm and 26th at 2pm and 7:30pm. Tickets ON SALE NOW at

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