When Aretha Franklin passed away, I immediately felt that I needed to remember her in a way that my students could understand the impact she had on the music world. I knew a lot about her, but I wanted to research further. I stayed up late, gathered resources, and with the help of my daughter, created this bulletin board for our back-to-school week.
Remembering Aretha Franklin
Through research, I found these facts from her life. I created the bulletin board above with pictures found through various resources. Some of the facts are listed below.
Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul, 1942-2018
How Did She Get the Nickname, “The Queen of Soul”?
- Pervis, “The Blues Man” Spann, a Chicago radio disc-jockey (DJ), caught Aretha’s performance at The Regal Theater. This was between 1964-1968. After her performance at the Regal, Spann presided over a coronation of sorts, placing a crown on Franklin’s head and dubbing her “the Queen of Soul.” Franklin was ecstatic.
- Nearly five decades later, in 2015, Franklin would also recount the night to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- “That happened when I was at the Regal Theater in Chicago, which was very much like The Apollo in New York,” she told the paper. “[Spann] walked on stage one evening with a crown, and I went, ‘Whoooa! What is this?’”
- But she embraced her newfound title. “Who wouldn’t want to be called ‘Queen’?” she said.
- Otis Redding wrote the song “Respect” as a relationship song. This became one of Aretha’s greatest hits. However, it was more than a song about a relationship. When Aretha sings the first line, “What you want…” she accents the word “What” to turn this song into a song about equality and confidence. When she performed this song, it was deliberate, strong, and it was never meant to be polite.
1998 Grammy Performance
- During the 1998 Grammy Awards Broadcast, Luciano Pavarotti became ill and could not perform the famous aria “Nessum Dora” from the Puccini’s opera, “Turandot”.
- Ken Ehrlich, the producer of the show, asked Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul, to sing it because he heard her sing it at a tribute concert for Pavarotti.
- “I just ran up to her dressing room, and asked her if she would do it,” he told Far Out Magazine. “And she said she wanted to hear the dress rehearsal.”
- “In those days we had a boombox with a cassette. And I brought it to her and played it for her. When she heard it, she said, ‘Yeah, I can do this’.”
- Franklin flawlessly performed the aria in front of a global audience estimated at 1 billion, according to the Independent.
- In the process, her performance was recognized by Billboard.com as one of the greatest awards show performances of all time.
Kennedy Performance Honoring Carole King
- CHILINA KENNEDY, who has played Carole King in the Broadway musical “Beautiful” and appeared in the Kennedy Center Honors tribute: “I’d heard the story of how Carole and Gerry [Goffin] had written the song for Aretha: they were walking down Broadway and [producer] Jerry Wexler pulled up in his limo and rolled down the window and said, “Hey, I want you guys to write a song called ‘Natural Woman.’”
- CAROLE just kept saying, “Oh my God, oh my God,” and holding her head. She had never seen Aretha play piano and sing her song. Lots of people don’t know that Aretha plays piano, but if you want to get her true sound, you need her playing. Vocally she knows where she’s going, so she can lead herself into that on piano. She’s got more movement in certain places than most pianists would. That teaches her rhythm section to get out of the way, to support her and not dictate how the song goes.”
- ARETHA FRANKLIN (speaking with vogue.com in 2016 about wearing the mink on stage): “I wasn’t sure about the air factor onstage, and air can mess with the voice from time to time. And I didn’t want to have that problem that evening. It’s been a long time since I’ve done Kennedy Center, and I wanted to have a peerless performance. Once I determined that the air was all right while I was singing, I said, “Let’s get out of this coat! I’m feeling it. Let’s go!”
- RICKEY MINOR, musical director of the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony: “The purse thing has a long history: she keeps her purse with her at all times. She’s got her money, she’s ready to move, to go wherever she needs to be. How many times do you have to leave your purse in the dressing room and have it go missing before you say, “I worked hard for this money — I’m going to put my purse right here where I can see it”?”
Aretha Franklin’s Many Achievements:
- She topped more than 100 singles in the Billboard charts, including 17 Top 10 pop singles and 20 No. 1 R&B hits.
- Aretha received 18 competitive Grammy Awards,
- She received a Lifetime Grammy Achievement Award in 1994.
- She was the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, in 1987, its second year.
- Aretha sang at the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009.
- Ms. Franklin sang at pre-inauguration concerts for Jimmy Carter in 1977 and Bill Clinton in 1993.
- She sang at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral in 1968.
- Ms. Franklin during a recording session at Columbia Studios in New York in 1962.
- Ms. Franklin receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, from President George W. Bush in 2005.
Clark, D. (2018, August 16). This is the moment Aretha Franklin became the ‘Queen of Soul’. Retrieved August 16, 2018, from https://www.nbcnews.com/pop-culture/music/how-aretha-franklin-became-queen-soul-n901336
Edwards, G. (2018, August 16). When Aretha Franklin Brought Down the House at the Kennedy Center. Retrieved August 17, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/16/arts/music/aretha-franklin-natural-woman-kennedy-center-honors.html?partner=applenews&ad-keywords=APPLEMOBILE®ion=written_through&asset_id=100000006058130
Morris, W. (2018, August 16). Aretha Franklin Had Power. Did We Truly Respect It? – The New York Times. Retrieved August 17, 2018, from https://apple.news/Ah2IFn194SCK0RAACJOpo5Q
Pareles, J. (2018, August 16). Aretha Franklin, Indomitable ‘Queen of Soul,’ Dies at 76. Retrieved August 17, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/16/obituaries/aretha-franklin-dead.html?action=click&module=RelatedCoverage&pgtype=Article®ion=Footer
I did not include the pictures and there are more items on the list. If you would like a copy of it, please feel free to contact me.
Amy M. Burns is an elementary music educator, clinician, author, and musician. She currently works at Far Hills Country Day School in Far Hills, NJ teaching PreK through Grade 3 general music, grade 5 instrumental music, and grades 4-8 instrumental band. She is the author of Technology Integration in the Elementary Music Classroom, Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with a SMART Board, and Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with One or more iPads! She is also an author for Online Learning Exchange™ Interactive Music powered by Silver Burdett. She has given numerous presentations on integrating technology into the elementary music classroom as well as being a keynote speaker for music technology conferences in Texas, Indiana, St. Maarten, and Australia. She is the recipient of the 2005 TI:ME Teacher of the Year Award, the 2016 NJ Master Music Teacher Award, the 2016 NJ Governor’s Leader in Arts Education Award, and the 2017 Non-Public School Teacher of the Year Award. You can find out more about Amy at her website: amymburns.com