To say that Aretha Franklin was one of the greatest artists of all time is an understatement. Her multi-octave voice moved millions around the world during an unrivalled career that spanned six decades and garnered the singer-songwriter every achievement and honour imaginable. A catalogue comprised of 39 studio albums, 8 live albums and 58 compilations. She won 18 Grammy Awards including eight in a row for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance from 1969 to 1975. In 1987 she was the first female artist of any genre to be inducted in the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame.
When you hear a good run from an artist like Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys, Christina Aguilera and even Ariana Grande do you know that you are really hearing the influence of Aretha Franklin. When a vocalist pour their everything into the song and makes you feel it in your soul, that's Aretha too. There are very few artists whose career has left a legacy on music as impactful as Aretha Franklin.
With the anniversary of her passing and the release of Respect, the movie about her life starring Jennifer Hudson, along with the release of the first box sex that covers her entire career we decided to highlight some of the impact of her legacy on music and those carrying her torch forward.
First, we must look at Jennifer Hudson. Talentwise she's probably the contemporary artist closest in a one to one comparison to Franklin. That might be why she was handpicked by Aretha to play her in the upcoming biopic film.
In a 2015 interview Hudson stated, "I grew up listening to my older cousins, and they were obsessed with Aretha. They were heavily influenced by her, and I took it from them."
Mariah Carey is an easy one to see the legacy of Franklin. The diva listed Franklin as an influence and she also shares a five-octave vocal range. The two shared the stage together in 1998 to do a rendition of Aretha's "Chain of Fools."
When the singer passed Mariah tweeted out some heartfelt sentiments about the icon.
Aretha Franklin. The Queen of Soul. The Icon. The ultimate singers' singer. The greatest singer and musician of my lifetime. The power of your voice in music and in civil rights blew open the door for me and so many others. You were my inspiration, my mentor and my friend. pic.twitter.com/QD9pxvGLLh— Mariah Carey (@MariahCarey) August 16, 2018
Church was a big part of Aretha's background and vocal styles. Her father was a preacher and it was the place where she started singing. This gospel background connection was shared with another diva who is one of the greats, Whitney Houston. Whitney also had a personal connection to the Queen of Soul as her mother Cissy Houston sang backup for Franklin.
"I remember when I was about 12, I would go into our basement where my mother had her recording equipment, and I'd take the mic and put on Aretha and we'd go at it for hours," Houston said in a 1985 interview.
Aretha's impact wasn't just limited to female singers. Luther Vandross, who is certainly listed as a huge influence among male singers, once called himself "an Arethacologist" as he deeply studied Franklin's singing to get into music. In 1982 he stated in an interview, "Aretha is among the most brilliant singers the planet has to offer."
And while music is a huge part of Aretha's legacy it's only just that, one part. During her career she was known as an activist and spoke to causes that weren't just related to her heart. While she's not the only artist to ever use their platform for more (especially in these days) it's just as big a part of her legacy as the music.
So take Beyonce as an example. We've seen Queen Bey take her platform and use it to create music and art that isn't just about dominating the charts. Look no further than her 2016 project Lemonade. In an interview with Elle the singer said, "I hope I can create art that helps people heal. Art that makes people feel proud of their struggle. Everyone experiences pain, but sometimes you need to be uncomfortable to transform." Beyonce once said that her own "soulfulness" comes "from the gospel...It comes from Aretha."
We could spend hours, days and weeks analysing artists and indicating the influence of Franklin on their styles, whether they realise it or not. We chose these five as examples due to their being listed as influences of some of todays contemporaries. It's a chain effect, if A influences B, and B influences C, then C is influenced by A. The Aretha Franklin tree includes artists like Lizzo, Adele, Ariana Grande, Ava Max, Sam Smith and many, many more. It is all just a testament to the impact of Aretha Franklin.
If you have never spent much time with the music of Aretha Franklin now would be a good time to do so. Rhino Entertainment has just released a box sex that is the first to span her entire career. It features her biggest hits like "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)," "Day Dreaming" and her signature classic "Respect" along with some demos and live versions of never before released.
You can order a physical copy HERE as well as stream below.