by Julia Vaccarella ’20
International superstar and soul singer Aretha Franklin has died at the age of 76 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. The “Respect” singer rose to prominence in the 1960s as a symbol of civil rights and has left behind a musical career that spans decades.
Entertainment Weekly explains that Franklin’s “voice is so deeply embedded in our culture that the mere mention of her name elicits a profound sense of love, strength, independence, and history. She didn’t just sing songs, she sang battle cries.”
Franklin’s singing career began within the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. From a young age she served as a member of the gospel choir before signing with Columbia Records at 18 years old. After experimenting with several other record companies throughout the following years, Franklin was ultimately crowned “The Queen of Soul.”
Franklin leaves behind a legacy as a champion of both black and female empowerment. She found herself at the forefront of controversial issues from early in life because of her father’s role as a preacher.
In 2012, she was revered as, “the voice of the civil rights movement, the voice of black America,” and a “symbol of black equality” during her induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
Franklin donated to organizations that support Native Americans. She was also the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio; she received this honor in 1987. Throughout the span of her career, Franklin won a total of 18 Grammy awards and countless other honors. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, which is the highest honor a United States civilian can receive.
Jeff Jampol, of Jampol Artist Management, expressed high esteem for Franklin in a recent Billboard article affirming, “She was a black leader at a time when we were living under Jim Crow law in [many] parts of the country and certainly prior to the Civil Rights Act… She is one of the greatest singers of all time and I think she became an icon of hope and of courage for a lot of women who followed her musically and non-musically.” Because Franklin left no will, Jampol is handling the distribution of her assets.
However, the impact and legacy that Franklin left behind far surpasses her material possessions. The immediate response from influential figures within the music industry and politics, as well as from her countless fans, confirms that her contributions will be revered for generations to come.