In August 2018, music lost royalty — Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. As the quintessential singer who popularized soul in genres beyond rhythm and blues, Franklin’s evergreen music seeds has (and will forever) be embedded in the careers of artists across the world.
With leading influence in the music industry, past and present performers stood on the shoulders of Franklin. Carrying her elite torch with confidence, pride and humility, Franklin rarely shied away from embracing a newcomer that has followed in her regal footsteps, spanning six decades.
Artists who wanted to be remembered for their own greatness knew receiving a stamp of approval from a legend whose presence was as enormous as Ms. Franklin was huge. Even if she backed you openly, behind the scenes or quietly to herself, it was considered an honor to be listed in the same sentence as Aretha.
As the Recording Academy prepares to show ‘r-e-s-p-e-c-t’ to Ms. Aretha Franklin and honor her everlasting influence at the 61stAnnual Grammy Awards, Rated R&B has compiled a list of moments where the Queen of Soul gave her blessings to our favorite R&B artists. Also, we share artists who have been immensely inspired by Ms. Franklin.
Aretha Franklin didn’t lend her voice to young performers if she didn’t believe in their promising future. She obviously saw something special in Trey Songz early on and appeared on the intro and remix to the title track of his debut album I Gotta Make It.
Revisiting Trey’s inaugural project, that heard a hungering soul at the brink of success, and witnessing Franklin being apart of it, it almost makes you wonder why he didn’t choose to improve on that foundation.
Since coming close to winning cycle three of American Idol and making her way as a well-respected superstar, Jennifer Hudson big voice has always rung a similar bell of Ms. Franklin.
Hudson, who has been hand-picked by Franklin to portray her life, got her first occasion to show her love to the legendary singer at the 2011 Grammy Awards after Franklin had a health scare. Hudson showered Franklin with much more ‘respect’, as the Queen of Soul watch on in amazement, at the 2014 BET Honors. She performed a medley of Franklin’s signature songs and later in the tribute set got a seal of approval from Franklin.
Don’t let the whistle register fool ya. Mariah Carey has some depth to her five-octave voice that cites the profound pitch of Ms. Franklin. After studying Franklin’s singing style since childhood, Carey got to prove what she learned on stage with the Queen of Soul at VH1’s Divas Live in 1998. The two ladies graced the stage to perform “Chain of Fools,” one of Franklin’s most popular songs. Franklin even called Carey her “newest little girlfriend.”
Carey went on to win the Aretha Franklin Entertainer of the Year Award at the 1998 Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards.
“First of all, anything with Aretha Franklin’s name attached to it is a supreme honor,” said Carey in her acceptance speech.
Certainly, prominent male R&B singers are tied to Franklin’s legacy, but probably not as much as the late-Luther Vandross. Admiring her career for years, the Velvet Voice crooner produced Franklin’s 1982 album Jump to It, which became her first commercial release in six years. He worked on her follow-up, Get it Right, and performed with Franklin years after.
Even though Franklin and Vandross experienced artistic differences in the ’80s, it didn’t stand in the way of her praising his musicianship while showing off her humorous side. “I really do love Luther and respect Luther,” Franklin said in JET 1999. “[But] he was lying at the base of his radio listening to me. I wasn’t lying there listening to him.”
Mary J. Blige
Mary J. Blige, a queen of soul — hip-hop soul that is, has always been fond of Ms. Franklin. Growing up in a soul era, Blige learned early on from Franklin how to express herself through song.
Soon after becoming a star, Blige reworked Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman” for Fox’s New York Undercover. Blige remade Franklin’s “Day Dreaming” in a jazzy way and shared the stage with the icon to perform “Do Right Woman” at a VH1 Divas special. Blige later recorded with Franklin for 1999’s Mary. Collaborating off and on throughout the 2000s, the pair won a Grammy (Franklin’s final award) together for their duet “Never Gonna Break My Faith” from the film, Bobby.
Like Franklin, Blige has been bestowed the responsibility of being a queen for a generation of emerging singers.
Fantasia list of music idols always included Ms. Franklin. That’s why Fantasia boycotted the 2011 Grammys after she wasn’t asked to apart of the tribute to the Queen of Soul. Although Fantasia shared a mother-daughter bond on their 2007 duet, “Put You Up on Game,” Fantasia still wasn’t happy that she omitted from honoring Aretha.
Not wanting Fantasia to be bitter about the tribute snub, Franklin shared some career wisdom to Fantasia spoken like a Queen. “Fantasia is still young in the business and although we all love and appreciate her she must understand that in this business of show business she will not always get to participate in everything she would like to participate in,” said Franklin.
The late-Natalie Cole was heavily inspired by Ms. Franklin. Cole could arguably be considered the princess of soul after hearing how Cole’s early singing and musical arrangements echoed Franklin. The uncanny artistic similarities made it hard for the Recording Academy to resists awarding Cole the Best Female Vocal R&B Performance trophy, that Franklin won eight years straight, in 1976 for “This Will Be.”
Years later, Cole did her best to escape the Franklin comparisons and created her own identity as an artist. Cole cleared up those resemblances again in her 2010 memoir, saying, “My voice was compared to Aretha Franklin’s, though, for my money, no one compares to Aretha.”
In 2016, after Cole’s untimely death, Franklin dedicated a moving rendition of “Inseparable” in concert.