John Lewis on Aretha Franklin: “When she sang, she embodied what we were fighting for, and her music strengthened us. It revived us.”

Aretha Franklin, the “Queen Of Soul” and one of the greatest singers in the history of popular music, has died at her home in Detroit, according to The Associated Press. She was 76 years old.

Franklin had been battling a series of illnesses for some time, and earlier this year announced her retirement from the road.

Georgia Congressman John Lewis released a statement in response:

Rep. John Lewis:

“We have lost one of the great artists of our time. Aretha Franklin was so talented. She was one of God’s precious gifts to the world—one of God’s shining jewels. She is deeply loved by hundreds, thousands, and millions of people as the Queen of Soul. Her skill as a composer, arranger, pianist, and vocalist made her an icon, and her interpretations of gospel and soul music came to define a new category of artistry called rhythm and blues. Her voice is still a guiding light to vocalists today who hope to breathe the same kind of vibrant truth into lyrics and melody that Aretha brought to her music.

“What made her talent so great was her capacity to live what she sang. Her music was deepened by her connection to the struggles and the triumphs of the African American experience growing up in her father’s church, the community of Detroit, and her awareness of the turmoil of the South. She had a lifelong, unwavering commitment to civil rights and was one of the strongest supporters of the movement. She was our sister and our friend. Whenever I would see her, from time to time, she would always inquire about the well-being of people she met and worked with during the sixties.

“When she sang, she embodied what we were fighting for, and her music strengthened us. It revived us. When we would be released from jail after a non-violent protest, we might go to a late night club and let the music of Aretha Franklin fill our hearts. She was like a muse whose songs whispered the strength to continue on. Her music gave us a greater sense of determination to never give up or give in, and to keep the faith.

“She was a wonderful, talented human being. We mourn for Aretha Franklin. We have lost the Queen of Soul.”

 

Franklin began her career as a child singing gospel at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, where her father, C. L. Franklin, was minister. In 1960, at the age of 18, she embarked on a secular career, recording for Columbia Records but only achieving modest success. Following her signing to Atlantic Records in 1967, Franklin achieved commercial acclaim and success with songs such as “Respect”, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, “Spanish Harlem” and “Think”. By the end of the 1960s she had gained the title “The Queen of Soul.”

She eventually recorded a total of 112 charted singles on Billboard, including 77 Hot 100 entries, 17 top ten pop singles, 100 R&B entries and 20 number-one R&B singles, becoming the most charted female artist in the chart’s history.

Franklin also recorded acclaimed albums such as I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, Lady Soul, Young, Gifted and Black and Amazing Grace before experiencing problems with her record company by the mid-1970s. After her father was shot in 1979, Franklin left Atlantic and signed with Arista Records, finding success with her part in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers and with the albums Jump to It (1982) and Who’s Zoomin’ Who? (1985).

Her other popular and well known hits include “Rock Steady”, “Jump to It”, “Freeway of Love”, “Who’s Zoomin’ Who”, “Chain Of Fools”, “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)”, “Something He Can Feel”, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” (with George Michael), and a remake of The Rolling Stones song “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”.

Franklin has won a total of 18 Grammy Awards and is one of the best-selling musical artists of all time, having sold more than 75 million records worldwide. She has been honored throughout her career including a 1987 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in which she became the first female performer to be inducted. She was inducted to the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. In August 2012, Franklin was inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

Franklin is listed in at least two all-time lists on Rolling Stone magazine, including the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, and the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.

“This is it,” she wrote in a statement back in February. “I feel very, very enriched and satisfied with respect to where my career came from and where it is now. I’ll be pretty much satisfied, but I’m not going to go anywhere and just sit down and do nothing. That wouldn’t be good either.”

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