WOTM: Aretha Franklin

Aretha: The Heart & Soul of Music

“Be your own artist, and always be confident in what you’re doing. If you’re not going to be confident, you might as well not be doing it.” -Aretha Franklin.

Bold, strong, independent and brave, - these great adjectives are only a few from many to describe our outstanding Woman Of The Month. Not only does she have 18 Grammy Awards in her hand, she was also awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a Grammy Legend Award. Not to forget, she was the one who paved career paths for women in the music industry, becoming the first woman to be featured in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as well as the first to ever have 100 songs chart on the Billboard’s Hot R&B/Rap chart. She still hails as the Queen of Soul, the song ‘Respect’ as her crowning achievement. This issue’s ‘soulful’ Woman Of The Month is no other than Aretha Franklin.

Aretha Louis Franklin was born to parents Reverend CL Franklin and Barbara Siggers Franklin on the early morning of March 25th 1942. Franklin’s early life was characterised by a tremendous amount of trouble, tragedy and loss. Aretha’s parents separated when and her mother left the family when she was still young. Four years after, her mother died of a heart attack. The death somehow became a mark for Aretha to learn and teach herself music, despite her father offering to arranged piano lessons. To Aretha, music was seen as a way of reconnecting with her late mother. Music does a lot of things for a lot of people. It's transporting, for sure. It can take you right back, years back, to the very moment certain things happened in your life. It's uplifting, it's encouraging, it's strengthening. Later on in her life, Aretha was recognised as a talented musician. She was soon seen as a musical child prodigy in her early teens.

Aretha lived, - and still lives - her life to it’s fullest. She is focused on spreading the message of women empowerment and strength through the powerful gift of music. Aretha’s music has had one of the broadest cultural impacts, stretching far beyond the music world and into politics and society. Her powerful, soaring vocals helped drive big cultural movements, including the civil rights movement and women’s movements. May this lady of soul continue to sing for freedom and inspire the world. One final quote from this legendary woman would be, Being the Queen is not all about singing, and being a diva is not all about singing. It has much to do with your service to people. And your social contributions to your community and your civic contributions as well”.

Aretha was set to travel and follow her father’s gospel community, gifted an amazing piano skill and a powerful voice that already soon became her trademark. Aside from that, Aretha sang at many local events. Aretha’s first album was recorded at only the age of 14. She could not have managed to produce her first album at such a young age without the determination and commitment she had. These are definitely some inspiring characteristics we should pick up from her.

Aretha gave birth to her first son, Clarence, at the age of 15 and her second son, Edward, two years after. They were brought up by her grandmother as Aretha wanted to continue pursuing her music career. Although it was difficult for her to find work at first, she did not despair. Aretha continued to do what she loved, and that was to entertain. She was a true entertainer at heart, paid for the passion or not. That, I must say, is the mark of a true performer. 

As the years went by, Aretha was noticed by many great talent managers and producing companies, and so the start of her successful career began. From there, Aretha continued on to write and produce more and more songs. Most of them were based around the idea of women rights and respect. This led her to becoming a strong figure in the feminist movement of her time. We all require and want respect, man or woman, black or white. It's our basic human right.


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