Friday, August 17, 2018

RIP Aretha Franklin

She was the one and only "Queen of Soul".  A singer who had an incredible influence on all that followed her.  Aretha was gifted with a one of a kind voice.  One of the first Internet polls I ever participated in was in late 1999.  List the 3 greatest singers of the 20th century.  My picks were easy ones (for me):  Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Aretha Franklin.  No wonder she was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Aretha was first signed to Columbia in the early 60's.  The voice is there, but the songs, arrangements, production, etc. is missing what would happen when she left. She made some of R&B's greatest songs at Atlantic Records. But if there was one part of Aretha's career that I think has been somewhat underrated, it's what a great album artist she was during her classic era, which for me was from 1967-72, at Atlantic records.

Now is the time for those who haven't heard these albums to explore her catalog beyond the many compilations that are out there:

I Never Loved A Man (1967)
Lady Soul (1968)
Aretha Now (1968)
Soul '69 (1969)
Spirit In The Dark  (1970)
Live at Fillmore West (1971)
Young, Gifted and Black (1972)
Amazing Grace (1972)

Like most 60's R&B singers, Aretha had trouble adjusting to the late 70's disco era.  She put out a string of lackluster albums that only Aretha's most loyal fans remember.  Then suddenly in 1981 she found the right material and Producers,   1982's Jump To It, Produced and mostly written by Luther Vandross was the start of the Aretha comeback.  1985's Who's Zoomin' Who was the bigger breakthrough.  For the rest of the 80's she was presence not just on the R&B charts but the Pop Top 40 as well.  Her last big hit being a duet with George Michael, 1987's "I Knew You Were Waiting".

Oddly enough, once the 80's ended Aretha's studio output became less and less.  1998's Rose Is Still A Rose was pretty good, but she became a concert draw up until 2017.

Regardless, Aretha Franklin was a towering figure not just in the R&B world but the world of music in general.  An incredible vocalist that inspired generations of vocalists.

There are no other contenders.  And there never will be.  She's the "Queen of Soul".

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