Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul (and so much more)

by Scott Olstad

Aretha Franklin on the cover of Time Magazine
Aretha Franklin on the cover of Time Magazine (Time Magazine)

For Black History Month 2013, The Current is spotlighting a different legendary African-American musician each week. This week, we're featuring the undisputed Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Tune in to hear tracks from her catalog throughout the week, and visit to the website for more features about her career.

Unlike our previous featured musicians this month, the 70-year-old Aretha Franklin has had a long, prolific and decorated career. Her 37 studio albums span seven decades, she has won 20 career Grammy Awards and sold more than 75 million records worldwide. Aretha was the first black woman to be featured on the cover of Time Magazine and was the first woman inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Her biography is a tour of the music industry's movers-and-shakers over the past half-century. She is the musical equivalent of Kevin Bacon — so linked to the influential figures of rock and soul history that a connection is never more than six steps removed.

No musician can stay relevant for more than 60 years without constantly updating their sound. While undeniably rooted in gospel music (her live gospel album, Amazing Grace is the best-selling gospel album of all time), her range of musical styles includes jazz, blues, R&B, pop, rock and funk. While her talent is undeniable, Franklin's ability to continually reinvent herself for a changing audience is an underrated element of her lasting appeal. At 70, Aretha Franklin is indisputably one of the ten most revered living musicians today. Respect. She only asked for a little bit, but she earned a whole lot.