An In-Depth Look Back at Aretha Franklin's Life in Photos

The "Respect" singer overcame so much to make it to the top.

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Michael Ochs Archives

With over 20 top R&B hits, 18 Grammy awards, and a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to her name, will undoubtedly be forever known as one of the greatest music legends of our time. In honor of her life, take a look back through some of 's incredible achievements — in the recording studio and beyond.

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Aretha Franklin
Hulton Archive
Aretha Franklin is raised in a musically gifted family.

Aretha Louis Franklin was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on March 25, 1942 to two talented gospel singers. Despite first living in a Southern city, she grew up mostly in Detroit, Michigan, along with her two sisters, brother, and half-brother from her mother's former relationship. Her father and well-known vocalist, Reverend Clarence La Vaughn Franklin of New Bethel Baptist Church, was a Baptist minister. Because of her father's position, Aretha began singing in the church choir at a very young age. When she was a child, her parents separated and Aretha was primarily raised by her father. In 1952, when Aretha was just 10 years old, her mother, Barbara, passed away after suffering a heart attack.

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Queen Of Soul Portrait
Michael Ochs Archives
Aretha becomes a mother at a young age.

By the mid-1950s, Aretha had already taught herself piano without even knowing how to read music. She spent much of her time traveling with her father and performing in various gospel programs around the country. The gospel tour exposed her to the likes of Smokey Robinson, Clara Ward, and Mahalia Jackson. But before she could make a name for herself, Aretha became a mother to her first son, Clarence Franklin (father's name is not publicly known), just two months before turning 13 in January 1955.

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Aretha Franklin Recording
Donaldson Collection
Her music begins to slowly make headwind.

One year later, her father began encouraging her to try her hand at recording music. And so, in 1956, she worked on her first jazz gospel album called "Spirituals," which was released by the small label JVB. In 1957, she had another child, Edward (Edward's father is also not known). Around the same time, Sam Cooke, a friend of her father's and the now-legendary singer, worked hard to . After deliberating with her father, Aretha dropped out of school, hoping that her big break was right around the corner.

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Aretha Franklin Portrait
Michael Ochs Archives
Aretha moves to New York City.

In 1960, the 18-year-old left her life in Detroit for a new one in the Big Apple to pursue bigger labels. That same year, her incredible talent scored her a deal with Columbia Records — a move that forever changed her life. Her first album for the label was helped along by talent scout John Hammond, who was also responsible for discovering . During this time, she recorded songs like "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody."

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The Andy Williams Show
NBC
The 1960s were a turning point.

The 1960s were a crazy time for Aretha. She released "Rough Lover," "You've Got Her," and "The Shoop-Shoop Song." , through her father's connections, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. along with Jesse Jackson. ., with him in 1964. Ted White Jr. went on to become a solo artist and is now known as Teddy Richards.

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Aretha And Jerry
Michael Ochs Archives
Aretha records "Respect" and launches to the top.

Despite 's original recording of "Respect" in 1965, it wasn't until Aretha put her magical, feminist touch on it that the track soared. By 1967, Aretha had left Columbia and signed to Atlantic Records. On Valentine's Day of that year, she recorded "Respect," which flew to the top of the charts four months later. She won her first two Grammys (along with four nominations) for the track. During her time at Atlantic, she also made "I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)," "," "Chain of Fools," "Since You've Been Gone," and "(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman." By 1969, Aretha had divorced Ted White and was on to making more hit music.

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Aretha Franklin With Her Grammy Award
Tim Boxer
In the 1970s, she continued her success.

By the turn of the decade, Aretha had already , crowned the "Queen of Soul," welcomed her fourth son (Kecalf), had a small role in the TV Show Room 22, earned five Grammys, and was increasingly seen as a powerful feminist figure in the Civil Rights Movement. Despite battling alcoholism, she knocked out hit after hit, including "Don't Play That Song" and a rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water." She also went back to her roots with a gospel album in 1972 entitled Amazing Grace. .

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Portrait Of Aretha Franklin & Family
Anthony Barboza
Tragedy strikes, but Aretha keeps going.

In 1979, her father (pictured left) was brutally robbed and shot back in Detroit. He ended up being put in a permanent coma until his death in 1984. Despite her overwhelming grief, Aretha tried hard to not let it stop her — and it didn't. In the 1980s, she appeared on a blockbuster. She released "Jump to It" and "Freeway of Love" .

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Aretha Franklin In Concert In Atlantic City
Waring Abbott
Aretha lands a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The year 1987 was life-changing. Aretha, though unable to attend the ceremony, made a landmark achievement in being . “We feel that tonight is the greatest night in the life of Miss Aretha Franklin, the 'Queen of Soul',” when accepting the award on her behalf. “Tonight, Aretha has been written into history.”

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Aretha Franklin sings for President William Clinton's inaugural
Mark Reinstein
The awards keep coming in the 1990s.

The years following her induction were equally impressive. Aretha scored two Grammy awards for "Aretha" and "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)." The following year, she collected another statue for "One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism." In the early '90s, she collected two more Grammy awards — the Grammy Legend Award (1991) and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1994). Other include performing at the inaugural gala of President Bill Clinton, publishing her autobiography , and earning the National Medal of Arts award.

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Freedom Awards Ceremony - November 9, 2005
Douglas A. Sonders
George W. Bush grants her the Franklin Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In 2005, the legendary artist for her work in "revolutionizing American music" and "helping to shape our nation's artistic and cultural heritage." Also to receive the award that year was Muhammad Ali, Carol Burnett, and Andy Griffith.

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Harvard University 363rd Commencement Ceremony
Paul Marotta
More milestones reached for Aretha.

Like 1987, 2014 was a big one for the "Respect" icon. She released "Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics," became the first female to earn her 100th hit on the Billboard's Hot R&B song chart with "Rolling in the Deep (the Aretha Version)," and received an Honorary Doctor of Arts degree at Harvard University.

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Elton John AIDS Foundation Commemorates Its 25th Year And Honors Founder Sir Elton John During New York Fall Gala - Show
Nicholas Hunt
Aretha announces she's retiring.

Even though in 2016 she told that she had no plans to slow down, her tune changed one year later. After working on one final album, Aretha declared that she was cutting back on performing, though not putting down the mic forever. “I feel very, very enriched and satisfied with respect to where my career came from and where it is now,” she told in Detroit. Her performance on November 7, 2017 at Elton John's AIDS foundation benefit marked her final one.

Aretha died on August, 16, 2018 after battling advanced pancreatic cancer.

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