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Queen of Soul: Aretha Franklin

Updated on January 29, 2024
Kenna McHugh profile image

Kenna has worked with entertainers, promoting special events with musicians, celebrities, and dignitaries.

"There are singers then there is Aretha. She towers above the rest. Others are good, but Aretha is great. She’s my only sure-enough sister."

— Ray Charles

Aretha Franklin Concert Review

The more I hear Aretha Franklin sing, the more I look for her songs. The more I hear about her, the more I want to know about her. You read any Aretha Franklin concert reviews that mention her greatest hits. You discover none of them discuss her jazz songs. Why is that?

Recordings that uniformly come up are "Amazing Grace," "Think," "Respect," "I Say a Little Prayer," "Chain of Fools," "Baby I Love You," "I Never Loved a Man," and "The House That Jack Built."

If you google "jazz music," Franklin's jazz showcase appears. Now is your chance to hear a gifted and talented jazz singer. As you listen to her voice, she sings riveting jazz band music, lifting the whole arrangement onto a soul quest.

It might sound corny, but Franklin is the ultimate singer who sang anything and sang better than anybody.

Aretha Franklin is Soul

Most agree that Aretha Franklin is the "Queen of Soul." She undeniably is the singer of the American pop culture. She epitomizes the soul as the central part of her gospel label. She brings a rhythm to each rendition. It's like a new soul waking up each time someone hears her songs.

Jazz Festival USA

A few jazz fans fail to see her as the main attraction at jazz festivals. Nevermore wrong, Aretha Franklin is a talented jazz singer and performed jazz renditions throughout her career. She even performed at the White House for jazz night.

"Being a singer is a natural gift. It means I'm using to the highest degree possible the gift that God gave me to use. I'm happy with that."

— Aretha Franklin

Franklin Performing at the Kennedy Center Honors

Close Family Ties

Franklin hailed from a house of a gospel minister, Reverend C.L. Franklin. During the 1950s, Aretha and her sisters Carolyn and Erma sang in their father's church. All three earned recording contacts.

Franklin Sing Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace is a documentary about Franklin recording her "Amazing Grace" in a South Los Angeles church. The event took place in 1972 in a packed church.

Amazing Grace Documentary

Gospel Label

Aretha Franklin began her first recordings at the age of 14. Gospel artist in her own right and just a gospel-folk tale, Motown approached her, and she signed with the budding recording label. Contrary to that story, John Hammond, who is legendary as a talent scout, signed her with Columbia and started her recording career.

Which Aretha Franklin Song is Your Favorite?

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Jazz Music Songs

After discovering the Motown's fabricated story, I continued my research and learned Franklin started singing jazz while recording at Columbia. In the early 1960s, she recorded some R&B hits while earning a Top Forty single "Rock-a-bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody."

For all that, while at Columbia, Franklin tried developing her niche or style as a recording artist. Several of her recordings included uptown Jazz. Her Columbia CD "Jazz to Soul" shares some renditions of her jazz potential with songs like "Less Cross," "Walk on By," and "Skylark."

Jazz Wealth

Although speculations leaning toward Franklin's aspirations to sing jazz gradually deadened at Columbia as things go when focusing on popular material and production. She dreamt of experimenting with her vocal talents even more in the jazz genre.

Luckily, I found a small number of upbeat recordings by Columbia on various LPs. She lifts her voice, singing jazzy renditions with undeniable passion.

"Music does a lot of things for a lot of people. It's transporting, for sure. It can take you right back, years back, to the very moment certain things happened in your life. It's uplifting, it's encouraging, it's strengthening."

— Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin Greatest Hits

Aretha Franklin split with Columbia and made a lasting and profitable impression at Atlantic records. Her vocal talent not only brought success to Atlantic records, but she crossed over from soul and R&B to pop without a hitch. She arrived in black music at a time that propelled her to fame, appealing to all levels of society.

Newport Jazz Festival

Prevailing, she vocalized her best at popular Jazz festivals around the world. Some notable ones are Toronto, Newport, and Montreux, Switzerland.

During her Golden Years before she passed away, I liked listening to her rendition of “Brand New Me,” the opener for the Newport Jazz Festival 2008 is truly a gift from the Heavens. I strongly recommend you take the time and listen to her belt this song out. It is like jazz in the garden. Listening and looking too, you meet the one and only “Queen of Soul.”

© 2018 Kenna McHugh


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