Aretha: A Look Back At The Life of A Legend Through 50 Photos.

Aretha life in pictures

Aretha. You don’t even need to say her last name. Everyone knows the Queen of Soul. The woman whose gospel-honed, passionate voice appealed to multi-generations for over six decades. And today, the 18 Grammy Award-winning performer, one of the best-selling musical artists of all time, finally sang her last song.

Aretha: A Look Back

Aretha: A Look Back
Aretha Franklin, 1960

Aretha Louise Franklin, a recipient of the U.S.A.’s highest civilian honor, The Presidential Medal Of Freedom, passed away at the age of 76 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

Aretha Franklin, 1964, photo: Michael Ochs
Aretha Franklin, 1964, photo: Michael Ochs
Aretha Franklin, 1966

With songs such as “Respect”, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, “Spanish Harlem”, “Chain of Fools”, “Say A Little Prayer” and “Think”, Aretha became the most charted female artist in the Billboard’s history. Her songs crossed over musical boundaries; rock, blues and gospel, touching people everywhere.

She was the first female performer to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in 1987. She was then inducted to the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005 and in August 2012, inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame. She was also a GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement and GRAMMY Living Legend awardee. Franklin’s other popular and well known hits include “Rock Steady”, “Jump to It”, “Freeway of Love”, “Who’s Zoomin’ Who”, “Something He Can Feel”, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” (with George Michael), and a remake of The Rolling Stones song “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”.

young Aretha Franklin
a young Aretha Franklin

Born in Memphis Tennessee in 1942, Aretha began singing gospel solos at Church when she was only 10 years old. She gave birth to the first of four children when she was merely 12. After turning 18, Franklin confided to her father that she aspired to follow Sam Cooke (on whom she had a big crush) to record pop music. Serving as her manager, her father agreed to the move and helped to produce a two-song demo that soon was brought to the attention of Columbia Records, who agreed to sign her in 1960.

’60s and ’70s

Aretha Franklin, photo by Lee Friedlander, 1968
Aretha Franklin

In November 1966, choosing not to renew her Columbia contract after six years with the company, Franklin signed to Atlantic Records. This was the start of her commercial success.

photos of aretha franklin
Aretha Franklin, 1966
Aretha Franklin, 1966
Aretha Franklin, 1967
Aretha Franklin, 1967
Aretha Franklin, 1968
Aretha Franklin, 1968
Aretha Franklin, 1968
TIME cover Aretha Franklin | June 28, 1968
Aretha Franklin, 1968, London photo by Alec Byrne
Aretha Franklin, 1968, London photo by Alec Byrne
Aretha Franklin, 1969
Aretha Franklin, 1969
Aretha Franklin with her Grammy Award in 1970
Aretha Franklin posing in 1973
Aretha Franklin posing in 1973 for the cover of her album, La Diva (photo: Michael Ochs)
Aretha Franklin, June 4, 1977. (Publicity photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)
Aretha Franklin smiles for her headshot, January 4, 1978. (Photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)

’80s, ’90s and 2000’s

In 1980, after leaving Atlantic Records, Franklin signed with Clive Davis’ Arista Records and that same year gave a command performance at the Royal Albert Hall in front of Queen Elizabeth. In 1985, inspired by her desire to have a “younger sound” in her music, her fifth Arista album, Who’s Zoomin’ Who?, became her first album to be certified platinum, after selling well over a million copies, thanks to the hits, “Freeway of Love”, the title track and “Another Night.”

Aretha Franklin at the 1983 Grammys
Aretha Franklin, 1987 photo by Norman Parkinson
Aretha Franklin, 1987, photo by Norman Parkinson
Aretha Franklin, 1987, photo by Norman Parkinson
Aretha Franklin posing as the Good Witch for Vogue in 1991, photo by Bruce Weber
Aretha Franklin, 1992
Aretha Franklin performs at the inaugural gala for U.S. President Bill Clinton on Jan. 19, 1993. (AP Photo Amy Sancetta)
Aretha Franklin dances on stage during the first annual march on cancer Saturday, Sept. 26, 1998, in Washington. (AP Photo/Khue Bui)
Aretha Franklin performs in New York on VH1, 2001
President Bush awards singer Aretha Franklin the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2005, in Washington. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian award given.(AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)
Aretha Franklin, 2009, photo by Thomas Whiteside
Aretha Franklin, 2007

In 2009, She sang at the Inauguration of President Obama

Aretha Franklin singing at the 2009 inauguration of President Obama
tribute to afretha franklin
Aretha Franklin, 2010, Philadelphia (photo by Matt Rourke)
Aretha Franklin performing in 2013
Aretha Franklin performing in 2013

In 2014, she earned an Honorary Doctorate from Harvard, her 13th honorary doctorate!

Aretha Franklin waves while standing to receive an honorary Doctor of Arts degree during Harvard commencement ceremonies, Thursday, May 29, 2014, in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

With the 2014 release of ARETHA FRANKLIN SINGS THE GREAT DIVA CLASSICS, Aretha put her indelible stamp on ten songs previously recorded by other female artists – and in her own inimitable way and made each one her own.

photos: Matthew Jordan Smith
Aretha Franklin performing in 2015

In December 2015, Franklin gave an acclaimed performance of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors during the section for honoree Carole King, who co-wrote the song.

Aretha Franklin gets ready to perform at the White House in 2015, photo by Pete Souza

aretha franklin sings for the white house

Moving President Obama to tears, she also received a mid-performance standing ovation, for taking off her fur coat and dropping it to the stage during the performance.

Aretha Franklin, 2016, photo by Mark Seliger for ELLE

In 2017, Franklin released her final album, A Brand New Me, with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Aretha Franklin performing at the April 2017 Tribeca Film Festival’s Opening Night for Clive Davis
Aretha Franklin performing during the 2017 Detroit Music Weekend Festival
Aretha Franklin attends the Elton John AIDS Foundation’s 25th Anniversary Gala at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, in New York. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)

Thank you Aretha. Rest in Peace.

Aretha Franklin’s music available on Amazon

Thanks to the following sites for the wonderful photos:
Jazz In Photos
getty images
St Louis Post Dispatch