Aretha Franklin performed to a capacity crowd at the Margaret Bundy Scott Field House at Hamilton on April 5. The Queen of Soul, visiting Hamilton as the 16th guest in the Sacerdote Great Names series, had the crowd on their feet as she sang such classic hits as “Respect,” “Freeway of Love,” and “Chain of Fools.” Her back-up band included Monk Rowe, the Joe Williams Director of the Jazz Archive, on the saxophone. (Read a reflection written by Rowe.)
Franklin is the 2005 recipient of a Presidential Medal of Freedom honor (the U.S.A.’s highest honor), 17 Grammy Awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a Grammy Living Legend Award. On January 3, 1987, she became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In February 2008 Franklin was honored by MusiCares — a charity of The Recording Academy — as its 2008 Person of The Year in a tribute in Los Angeles two nights before the 50th GRAMMY Awards.
Her distinctive soulful vocal style has graced the music charts for nearly five decades. Franklin has spent much of her recording career at Arista, where she was signed in 1980 by Clive Davis, Arista founder, chairman and CEO, and executive producer of many of her albums.
Known to music-lovers around the world as simply “Aretha,” she has achieved global recognition, influencing generations of singers from Janis Joplin and Chaka Khan, to Natalie Cole and Mary J. Blige. While Franklin’s live performances have touched the hearts of millions since she began her musical journey as a gospel-singing child prodigy, it is her rich legacy of recordings that are a testament to her talent.
Dozens of chart-topping records have established Franklin as a cultural icon, with eight consecutive Grammy Awards for Best R&B Vocal Female between 1967 and 1974. Included in her litany of classics are “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You),” “Respect,” “Baby I Love You,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chain Of Fools,” “Think,” “Don’t Play That Song,” “Freeway Of Love,” and dozens of others from a list of more than 100 singles that have made the charts.
Included on that list of singles – and her 50-plus original studio and live albums – are numerous duets and collaborations, especially during Franklin's Arista years, when Clive Davis regularly paired her with the greatest names of all time. These included artists whose careers paralleled Franklin’s, while others, notably in the ’90s and ’00s, were younger artists influenced by her. In 2007 Arista released Jewels In The Crown: All-Star Duets With The Queen, a compilation of 16 duets by Franklin with such artists as Frank Sinatra, Elton John and Mariah Carey. The tracks span virtually the entirety of her Arista years, from 1981’s “Love All The Hurt Away,” a duet with singer-guitarist George Benson, all the way to today, on brand-new unreleased 2007 recordings of two new duets: “Put You Up On Game” with American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino and “What Y’All Came To Do” with 28-year-old John Legend.