Aretha Franklin Awarded Posthumous Pulitzer Prize

Aretha Franklin performs at the Nokia Theater in L.A. 2012
Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Aretha Franklin – deemed the “Queen of Soul” – has been awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for contributions to American music over the past 50 years, according to a report from CNN. This marks the first time in history that an individual woman has received the prize. Other winners in the past include Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, Scott Joplin, and John Coltrane.

The BBC said that she is also the 12th musician to win the prize since it began. Franklin is listed under the “Special Citations” category on the official Pulitzer website along with the Capital Gazette in Maryland for its response to the “largest killing of journalists in U.S. history” in 2018.

During her lifetime, Franklin won a string of awards, including 18 Grammys. She also boasted 17 top 10 hits in the U.S. and had 73 of her songs enter the Billboard Top 100. She was also the first woman ever to be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Rolling Stone magazine rated her as one of the greatest singers of all time.

Her biggest hits included “Respect,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” and “Chain Of Fools.” Her trademark powerful voice was trained in the gospel tradition before the singer began to embrace other musical genres, such as jazz, soul, and rhythm and blues.

Pulitzer Prize event in Washington, 2016
  Leigh Vogel / Getty Images

Among the singer, other notable winners have also been announced in the field of literature, theater, and journalism. Jackie Sibblies Drury won the drama prize for the play Fairview, which the Pulitzer jury described as a “hard-hitting drama that examines race in a highly conceptual, layered structure, ultimately bringing audiences into the actors’ community to face deep-seated prejudices.”

Richard Powers’ novel The Overstory won the fiction prize, whilst David W. Blight won the history prize for his biography of the abolitionist and writer Frederick Douglass.

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The Pulitzer is a U.S. prize which gives out achievements in various categories, such as literature, journalism, and music. It was started in 1917 by newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer. One of its first winners was Herbert Bayard from the New York World for a series of articles he wrote during 1916.

Winners of the prize receive $15,000 – up from $10,000 in 2017 – and a gold medal. Winners are decided by a board of judges. In 2018, the committee awarded the prize to musician Kendrick Lamar for the album Damn as well as author Andrew Sean Greer for his novel Less.

Aretha Franklin died of pancreatic cancer in August 2018. She was 76-years-old.