5 Things You Didn’t Know About Aretha Franklin

Noam GalaiGetty Images

Aretha Franklin passed away today. The singer retired last year and rumors of her failing health have circulated in recent years. The Inquisitr reported this week that Franklin was at home this week in hospice care.

Franklin, long regarded as the “Queen of Soul”, is best known for hits like “Respect,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Chain of Fools,” “Ain’t No Way,” and “Think.” Aside from her impressive discography, here are 5 things you may not have known about Aretha Franklin.

1. She was the first woman inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Franklin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and became the first woman — of any color — to receive the honor. Her recognition in the famed music hall came just months before The Beatles were inducted in 1988.

2. Her musical abilities are self-taught

Aretha learned how to play the piano by ear, according to CNN. She got her start singing gospel in her father’s church. Her musical style reflected her gospel roots.

Aretha Franklin passed away
Featured image credit: Dimitrios KambourisGetty Images

3. Her hit “Respect” is actually a cover.

Perhaps Franklin’s biggest claim to fame is the hit song, “Respect.” However, the song was originally written and recorded by Otis Redding in 1965. Though Redding’s version was successful, Aretha’s version quickly surpassed his and the song became more widely associated with her.

Franklin brought her own influence to the song. She added — in collaboration with her sisters, who sing the background vocals — the fan favorite part, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T/ find out what it means to me/R-E-S-P-E-C-T/Take care TCB”, and “sock it to me.”

The song, as originally performed by Redding, was about a man demanding respect from his woman. In Franklin’s version, the song took on a new meaning. From her point of view, the song became an anthem for women demanding respect and equality at a crucial time when Feminist and Civil Rights movements were ongoing.

The song was a huge hit and spent two weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart and eight weeks on the Black Singles chart, according to CBC.

4. She was married, and divorced, twice.

According to Smooth Radio, Franklin married her first husband, Theodore White, in 1961, at the age of 19. They separated in 1968 amidst troubles, including domestic abuse. Ten years later, she married her second husband, actor Glynn Turman.

After her second divorce, Aretha planned to wed her “longtime companion, Willie Wilkerson”. Smooth Radio reports that the engagement did not result in a marriage. She called off the wedding in 2012.

5. She had her share of personal hardships

Franklin’s mother died just before the future diva turned 10. A few years later, she became pregnant for the first time at the age of 12. The child was named Clarence and was fathered by a classmate. He would be the first of her 4 children.

In 1979, her father was shot in his home by a burglar. He fell into a coma and died several years later without ever having regained consciousness, according to CNN. No doubt, her hardships fueled her artistic direction. Her voice often included notes of grit and strength that made her stand out in her artistry.