The "Queen of Soul". "Sunday Morning" Contributor Bill Flanangan of VH1 offers a tribute:
Aretha Franklin was the greatest popular singer of the rock era. Other vocalists built whole careers imitating innovations that Aretha threw away.
At the 1998 Grammy Awards, the tenor Luciano Pavarotti lost his voice before the live broadcast, and the producers asked Aretha if she could step in and sing Puccini's "Nessun Dorma." Her answer made music history.
Aretha Franklin was the special child of a remarkable family. Her father, the Reverend C.L. Franklin, was a famous preacher whose sermons were played on radio and records. Aretha grew up in comfort, with family friends like Martin Luther King and Mahalia Jackson visiting the Franklin home.
When Smokey Robinson was eight, he came into the Franklin house and was astounded to see five-year-old Aretha playing the piano and singing with the power and skill of a talented adult. He never forgot it.
Aretha was recording from the time she was 14, but when she signed to Atlantic Records in 1967, her career exploded. The Summer of Love was also the Summer of "Respect."
"Respect" was a sermon set to music, and it kicked off some of the best records of the sixties: "Do Right Woman," "I Never Loved a Man," "Think," "Natural Woman," "Baby I Love You," "Chain of Fools."
A year after she hit the top of the charts, the Queen of Soul was on the cover of Time Magazine – a rare accomplishment for a black woman 50 years ago.
In the '70s she gave us "Spanish Harlem," "Something He Can Feel, "Till You Come Back to Me."
In 1980 she stole the show in "The Blues Brothers" movie.
There were many more hits to come. Over her career, Aretha placed more than 100 songs on the Billboard R&B charts, the last in 2014.
She sang for presidents and the pope. She sang songs of faith and songs of passion. She was a living manifestation of pride – but there was always something unknowable in Aretha Franklin, the suggestion of a pain she would not share.
For all the magnificence of her gifts, for all the glory of her life, there was a hurt in Aretha's singing that was profoundly human, even when she was reaching for the divine.
She was the "Queen of Soul" for half a century ... and now Aretha Franklin has gone home.
- The best Aretha Franklin song from every decade (mp3.com)