Aretha Franklin, singer

Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin
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Aretha Franklin, who has died at 76, was a soul singer whose career spanned seven decades and whose feminist anthem, Respect, is considered to be among the greatest songs of the era.

She sold more than 75m records worldwide and was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

She was born Aretha Louise Franklin in Memphis, Tennessee on March 25 1942 to a travelling Baptist preacher Clarence LaVaughn “CL” Franklin, and Barbara, an accomplished singer and pianist.

Her family relocated to Detroit, Michigan while she was still an infant, and her father led the city’s New Bethel Baptist Church, which became a centre for the civil rights movement.

Following her parents’ separation, Franklin’s mother moved to Buffalo in New York but would frequently visit her children in Detroit. Barbara died a few weeks before Franklin’s 10th birthday.

The childhood home was frequented by Dr Martin Luther King Jr and the gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who helped to take care of Franklin and her siblings following her mother’s death.

At 12, Franklin had the first of her four sons, Clarence, whom she named after her father. Her second child, Edward, followed two years later.

Franklin’s love and knack for all things musical started early, when she learned how to play the piano by ear and singing in church.

Her father became her manager and she joined him on his tours of churches across the country.

She released her first studio album, Songs Of Faith, in 1956, at 14.

At 18, she told her father she wanted to start singing and recording pop music. She was signed by Columbia who released her first single, Today I Sing The Blues, in 1960.

Her first record to land on America’s main industry chart came the following year with Won’t Be Long, but it was in the latter half of the decade that Franklin’s commercial success really began.

She opted to move to Atlantic Records in 1966 and the following year scored her first top 10 hit with I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You).

Her album of the same name also featured her signature number, a rendition of Otis Redding’s Respect, which topped the chart.

A string of popular hits followed in the late 1960s, including (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, Chain Of Fools, Baby I Love You, and her version of I Say A Little Prayer by Dionne Warwick.

In June 1968, she appeared on the cover of Time magazine and earned the first of her 18 Grammy awards for Respect. She would be recognised at the Grammys with a lifetime achievement award in 1994.

She was married twice, first to guitarist Theodore “Ted” White with whom she had her third son Ted White Jr, who would later perform as a guitarist in Franklin’s touring band.

Their marriage ended in divorce after eight years, and Franklin had her fourth child, Kecalf, by her tour manager Ken Cunningham, in 1970.

In 1978 she married actor Glynn Turman at her father’s church. They separated in 1984.