Remembering Aretha Franklin

Revisiting 60 Minutes’ 1990 interview on "Respect" and more with the Queen of Soul

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This Sunday, CBS will honor Aretha Franklin, the star whose powerful voice and emotionally charged lyrics earned her the title "Queen of Soul." Franklin died of advanced pancreatic cancer in August at her home in Detroit. She was 76.

The daughter of a preacher, she started performing as a child, singing for her father's congregation at the age of 9.

"I didn't really want to sing at first," Franklin told Ed Bradley in an interview for a 60 Minutes profile that aired October 14, 1990, "but my dad insisted that I do."

Over the course of her six-decade career, Aretha Franklin went on to win 18 Grammy Awards and was the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The state of Michigan, where she lived, declared her voice a natural resource.

Aretha Franklin and Ed Bradley in 1990 CBS News

Asked by Bradley to share which song she considered her "signature" work, the mezzo-soprano who had grown up in the tradition of gospel legends Clara Ward and Mahalia Jackson, answered that there were three. "Respect, Natural Woman, and I Never Loved a Man," Franklin said.

Bradley zeroed in on the first, asking her to reveal its meaning.

"Give me my propers," Franklin asserted. "Everyone should have respect."

From the archives: Aretha on piano 01:34

Arguably her most famous song, "Respect" was originally written and recorded by Otis Redding, but it was taken to stratospheric heights when Aretha Franklin sang it in 1967. Franklin, who rearranged the piece, belting out a demand for "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" in seven iconic seconds and adding the infectious refrain of "sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me…", created her first number one hit on the Billboard charts as well as an unofficial anthem for both the civil rights and women's movements.

Photo Gallery Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin in 1973 Associated Press

Intended as an assertion of self-worth from a woman to a man, the song captured the appeals that Americans all over the nation were making to their government and society at large to be seen – and to be heard.

The song was released on April 29th, 1967 – three weeks after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his seminal "Beyond Vietnam" speech condemning U.S. military engagement there, and one day after heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali refused, as a conscientious objector, to be inducted into the U.S. Army. By July, racial tensions had erupted into full-scale race riots in Newark and Detroit. And by October, as many as 100,000 protesters had flooded Washington to protest the war in Vietnam. It was the year that the newly-formed National Organization for Women (NOW) started to push for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

The nation was alive, it was fighting, and Aretha Franklin's "Respect" was its soundtrack.

The videos above were edited by Sarah Shafer Prediger.