Aretha Franklin is known as the Queen of Soul, and she has been extremely important to the development of popular music. Born and raised in the Baptist church, Franklin was the daughter of the late Detroit preacher, Reverend C.L. Franklin, one of the most charismatic ministers of the black church who was said to be blessed with a "million dollar voice." Aretha was singing in her dad's church when she was just short of being a toddler, and she became something of a gospel music phenomenon, with many proclaiming that she was poised to become the next Mahalia Jackson.
After moving to New York City in the early '60s, she was signed by the great Columbia Records A&R man John Hammond--but the label didn't have any idea of what to do with this incredible voice, attempting to maker her into a traditional "pop" singer instead. It was only after she later signed with Atlantic Records and was paired with the legendary producer Jerry Wexler that Aretha Franklin really became Aretha.
She recorded numerous classic LPs under Wexler's guidance, and the dynamic duo created "pop" hit single after hit single--the most famous of which, of course, remains her interpretation of Otis Redding's "Respect," followed by her dynamic version of Carole King's "Natural Woman," "Chain Of Fools" and simply too many to list here. Her string of hits stopped in the early '70s, however, and after several bland, disco-fied LPs, she left Atlantic for Arista. Her tenure at the latter label only produced one brief moment of glory--Who's Zoomin' Who, an excellent, damn near total pop album, including her final top 10 hit single, "Freeway Of Love" (featuring Clarence Clemons and Carlos Santana in the mix). For years, Franklin primarily coasted on her reputation, singing at Vice President Al Gore's daughter's wedding and frequently doing gigs (TV commercials, etc.) that really didn't befit a legend. However, her 1998 effort, A Rose Is Still A Rose--featuring collbaorations with the Fugees' Lauryn Hill, Puff Daddy, Jermaine Dupri and other modern-day hip-hop giants--has boosted her career and even made her a hit on the dance charts. Her stunning last-minute performance filling in for opera singer Luciano Pavarotti at the 1998 Grammys helped bolster her '90s presence as well.