You can make arguments for who’s the best group ever, whether it be The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Queen, etc.
Among male singers, you could state your case for Elvis Presley, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Prince, Freddie Mercury, Sam Cooke, Paul McCartney. The list would be long.
When it comes to females, there’s only one to consider: Aretha Franklin.
The Queen of Soul, who died Aug. 16, 2018, of cancer at age 76, was and will always be the greatest female singer of all time. IMHO.
Let us count the ways …
• She had 88 Billboard Hot 100 entries, 17 Top 10 pop singles, 100 R&B entries and 20 No. 1 R&B singles.
• She had more than 40 chart albums, from 1962’s “The Tender, The Moving, The Swinging Aretha Franklin” to 2003’s “So Damn Happy.”
• Among the hits she wrote or co-wrote: “All the King’s Horses,” “Call Me,” “Day Dreaming,” “Rock Steady,” “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone,” “Spirit in the Dark,” “Think,” “Who’s Zoomin’ Who.” She was also an accomplished but underrated pianist.
• She was the Queen of Soul, but she was also the Queen of Cover Versions … she gave her soul/gospel touch to many hits, among them Otis Redding’s “Respect,” Dionne Warwick’s “I Say a Little Prayer,” The Band’s “The Weight,” Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and Ben E. King’s “Spanish Harlem.”
• She has sold more than 75 million records worldwide.
• She won 18 Grammy Awards. From 1967 to 1974, she dominated the Best Female R&B Vocal Performance category, winning it eight straight years.
• In 1987, she became the first female artist inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
• Disco shoved her to the side in the late 1970s and early ’80s, but she revived her career after signing with Arista Records. “Jump to It” (1982) was her first Top 40 hit in six years. Three years later, she returned with a more contemporary sound on “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?,” aligning herself with Whitney Houston’s producer, Narada Michael Walden. It resulted in three more big hits, “Freeway of Love,” “Who’s Zoomin’ Who” and “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves.”
• Two years later, she scored her first No. 1 since 1967’s “Respect,” on a Grammy-winning duet with George Michael, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me).”
• In 1998, Luciano Pavarotti was scheduled to perform at the Grammy Awards ceremony and receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. Two hours before the telecast, Pavarotti canceled due to illness. Franklin, then 56, stepped in and sang the opera aria “Nessun dorma” in his place. It was an extraordinary performance, one for the ages. (View it here.)
• She won the Grammy Legend Award in 1991, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994, was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1994, recipient of the National Medal of Arts in 1999, and was bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. She was the second woman inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame (Madonna was the first).
• Her last Top 40 hit was the Lauryn Hill-produced, gold-selling “A Rose Is Still a Rose” in 1998.
There’s only one Aretha Franklin. God bless you, Aretha. Thank you for the music.
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