March 25: " The Queen of Soul,"Aretha Franklin, is 69 today.

Did you know?
"Aretha" is named after her aunts Aretha and Louise.

In 1987, Franklin became the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Aretha Franklin is one of the most honored artists by the Grammy Awards, with 18 competitive Grammys and two honorary Grammys. She has 20 #1 singles on the Billboard R&B Singles Chart and two #1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100: "Respect" in 1967 and "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" in 1987, a duet with George Michael.

 Since 1961, she has scored a total of 45 Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. She also has the most million-selling singles of any female artist. Between 1967 and 1982 she had 10 #1 R&B albums - more than any other female artist.
Rolling Stone magazine ranks her atop its list of The Greatest Singers of All Time.
Aretha Louise Franklin was born at a two-room house in Memphis, Tennessee. Franklin's family moved to Buffalo, when Franklin was two, and then by four, had settled in Detroit. Franklin sang in church at an early age and learned how to play piano by ear.

By her late preteens, Franklin was regularly singing solo numbers in her father's New Bethel Baptist Church. Franklin's father, was a well-known preacher, and Aretha grew up with local and national celebrities hanging out at her father's home including gospel greats Albertina Walker and her group The Caravans, Mahalia Jackson and Clara Ward, three women who played a pivotal role in her vocal development as a child.

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Franklin's first album was released in January 1961. Franklin's label had the singer record mainly jazz-influenced pop music hoping for success with this format as the label had with Billie Holiday. After scoring two more top ten R&B hits with "Operation Heartbreak" and "Won't Be Long" in 1961, Franklin scored her first top 40 pop hit with her rendition of "Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody." However later releases failed to find similar success, despite Franklin having a near-top fifty hit with "Runnin' Out of Fools" in 1963.

After the release of a tribute album to Dinah Washington, Aretha recorded renditions of girl group-oriented hits including "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss)," "Every Little Bit Hurts" and "Mockingbird" but the records didn't do well. During a show in 1965, the master of ceremonies gave Franklin a tiara crown declaring her "the queen of soul." The title would prove to be prophetic. By 1966, struggling with recording for Columbia, Franklin decided not to sign a new contract with the label and settled with a deal with Atlantic.

Franklin began recording her first songs for Atlantic in early 1967. Franklin cut her first song, the blues ballad "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)," which allowed Franklin to show her gospel side. "I Never Loved a Man" soared up both the pop and R&B charts upon its release peaking at number-nine and number-one respectively.

Her second single with Atlantic would also be her biggest, most acclaimed work. "Respect," originally recorded and written by R&B singer Otis Redding, would become a bigger hit after Franklin's gospel-fueled rendition of the song. The song also started a pattern of Franklin in later songs during this period producing a call and response vocal with Franklin usually backed up by her sisters Erma and Carolyn Franklin or The Sweet Inspirations.

Franklin is credited with arranging the background vocals and ad-libbing the line, "r-e-s-p-e-c-t, find out what it means to me/take care of TCB," while her sisters shouted afterwards, "sock it to me." Franklin's version peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming a sixties anthem.

Franklin had three more top ten hits in 1967 - "Baby I Love You," "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" and "Chain of Fools." "Respect" later won Franklin her first two Grammys. She eventually won eight consecutive Grammys under the Best Female R&B Vocal Performance category.

By the end of the year, Franklin not only became a superstar but she stood as one of the symbols of the civil rights movement partially due to her rendition of "Respect," which had a feminist-powered theme after Franklin recorded it. Franklin's other hits during the late sixties included "Think," her rendition of Dionne Warwick's "I Say a Little Prayer," "Ain't No Way" and "The House That Jack Built" among others.
In 2008, Franklin was honored as MusiCares "Person of the Year," two days prior to the 50th Annual Grammy Awards, where she was awarded her 18th career Grammy.

Franklin was personally asked by then newly-elected President Barack Obama to perform at his inauguration singing "My Country 'tis of Thee." The memorable hat she wore at the ceremony was donated to the Smithsonian Institution. In 2010, Franklin received an honorary music degree from Yale University.

To mark her 50th anniversary in show business, Franklin will finally release her thirty-eighth studio album, Aretha: A Woman Falling Out of Love, in May 2011. It would be the first release off Franklin's own record label, Aretha's Records, a label she formed in 2005.

Following  surgery in December 2010, Franklin announced that she will return to the stage in May 2011, rescheduling all the dates she had to be forced to cancel due to health problems.



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