Aretha Franklin: The Rise of a Blues Queen

Have you ever heard the story of Aretha Franklin before? She was born into poverty in Memphis, Tennessee at the beginning of the 20th century. Her father abandoned her family, leaving them to become poor sharecroppers.

In time she learned to sing and play guitar in church, singing hymns and gospel songs for other children. One day a local producer discovered her talent. He recorded her first song, called ‘Respect.’ From then on, Aretha became an unstoppable force. Soon after, she released her first record. Today, she remains one of the greatest gamblers and singers of our time.

Aretha Franklin’s Most Famous Songs

Aretha Franklin has had so many great hits. Here are some of our favorites:

1. ‘Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady’

This is the perfect pop song about how men should treat women. It features that iconic chorus, “You’re nobody till somebody loves you.”

2. ‘Baby I Love You’

This soulful ballad was written by Otis Redding. Aretha performed it on his last album. The lyrics are simple yet very touching. “I just want to tell you baby / That I love you baby / And if there’s anything I can do baby / Oh please let me know”

3. ‘Chain Of Fools’

This is Aretha’s biggest hit from the 1960s. It tells the story of a girl who falls in love with a man who cheats on her. How she feels when he leaves her behind. She sings “It seemed like all my life I lived in chains of fools,” which is possibly one of the most famous lines in music history.

4. ‘Do Right Woman – Do Right Man’

Aretha wrote this song herself. It discusses the fact that sometimes we need to learn patience and be understanding towards each other. It also talks about accepting yourself as a woman.

5. ‘Freeway Of Flowers’

This is another Otis Redding classic. It’s about being yourself and not trying to fit into someone else’s mold. Aretha performs the song live on piano.

6. ‘How Can Anybody Lose’

Written by Randy Newman, this upbeat song talks about friendship and loyalty. Aretha sings “There comes a time when every friend becomes a lover”.

7. ‘Think’

This slow bluesy track is sung from the perspective of a man thinking back on his past relationships. It’s a little dark but worth hearing.

8. ‘Stand By Me’

The theme of this version of Stand By Me is God’s protection. This song is featured in the film, Sing Street.

9. ‘Something Wonderful’

One of the best-known versions of this pop standard, this has been covered by artists such as Dusty Springfield, Dionne Warwick, and Celine Dion. It’s a beautiful message about believing in yourself despite whatever circumstances happen around you. Aretha’s version is full of emotion.

10. ‘Twist & Shout’

Another song by the Beatles, Twist & Shout has become synonymous with British culture. In this version, Aretha sings about dancing and having fun while wearing a mini skirt. The song is still a favorite among young people today.

Fun Facts About Aretha Franklin

  • She was born Gertrude Pridgett on July 25th, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee. Her father was Alfreda (née Spikes), who worked at the city zoo, and her mother was Vernaline (née McCallum). They were both members of the Church of God in Christ.
  • She started performing at age 13 in local churches.
  • At 18, she joined the Soul Stirrers, led by Sam Cooke. Later they changed their name to the Drifters, and then the Imperials. Aretha sang lead on only one single, “Please Mr. Postman”, a cover of a song by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
  • After leaving the group in 1963, she signed with Columbia Records under Clive Davis and scored four Top 40 hits: “Baby I Love You”, “Respect”, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “Ain’t No Way.”
  • In 1966, Aretha recorded for Atlantic Records. She released three albums before signing with Warner Bros. Records in 1968 where she became an international star. Among these were Aretha Now! (1968), Lady Soul (1970), and Amazing Grace (1972).
  • She met her husband, Ted White, during a concert, and married him in 1970. They had two sons together, Clarence Jr., born in 1974, and Edward, born in 1976.
  • In 1972, she won five Grammys, including Album of the Year for Aretha Arrives.
  • She made her debut on network television in 1973, singing “I Say a Little Prayer” on The Ed Sullivan Show.
  • In 1975, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class.


Aretha Franklin released many legendary songs that are instantly recognizable and timeless. But we can’t help feeling there’s more out there yet to be discovered.