As her 73rd birthday quickly approaches and with medical issues in the rear view, Aretha Franklin shows no signs of signaling a halt to her career. How could she have it any other way? Nearly six decades of her life has been spent using her magnificent voice to entertain legions of fans. Entertainment is what Franklin knows best.
Franklin began her career in 1961, but the first of her 18 GRAMMY Award wins wouldn’t come until 1968, around the same time she began to amass record sales, currently totaling about 75 million. Franklin spent the formative years of her career signed to J.V.B. Records and Columbia before signing to Atlantic in 1967. It was during that six year stretch that Franklin earned her chops and gained confidence.
“I didn’t have any hit records with that label,” Franklin says of her time with Columbia. “I gained a very, very large listening audience. And as a result of that, I gained a lot of critical approval and acclaim from some of the great critics of the day.”
Franklin was never absent from the charts early in her career: songs like “Runnin’ Out of Fools”; “One Step Ahead”; and “Cry Like a Baby” were top ten hits on the R&B chart. But it was this time before singles like “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” and her recording of Otis Redding’s “Respect” that prepared her for stardom.
“I think it was OK, it was alright. It was gradual and that was good for me as an artist,” says Franklin, adding that it was better “to not be overwhelmed with anything.”
Franklin continues to make her mark on the charts today, this time with her 38th studio album Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics reaching #13 on the US Billboard 200. “Rolling in the Deep (The Aretha Version)” became Franklin’s sixth #1 single when it took the top spot on Billboard’s US Hot Dance Club Songs chart.
Franklin will be performing at New Jersey Performing Arts Center on Saturday, March 14th. Tickets are available through ticketmaster.com.
Listen to Aretha Franklin’s full interview with Scott Shannon in the Morning below.