Rolling Stone plays tribute to the Queen, the woman who dominated the soundtrack of our lives:
In her later years, Franklin was frequently sidetracked by health problems, and her recordings were slow to appear and spotty; A Woman Falling Out of Love, which she’d started recording in 2006, was finally released on her own label in 2011. In 2010, Franklin faced rumors that she was battling pancreatic cancer after canceling her scheduled performances; Franklin denied the cancer diagnosis, instead revealing she had surgery to remove a tumor. Franklin also canceled her scheduled 2018 performances after her doctor recommended that the singer rest for at least two months. Franklin last performed in November 2017 at Elton John’s annual AIDS Foundation gala.
Still, the power of her voice never left her. In 2014, her version of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” a song that would have been unimaginable without her, became the Queen’s 100th R&B chart hit. (The song was part of her last new album, Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics.) “She’s an original,” Franklin told Rolling Stone in 2012. “Love her lyrics — reminiscent of the Carole King lyrics of the Sixties. Just better! ‘We coulda had it all’! Sure you’re right, Adele!” In 2009, she sang at Barack Obama’s Presidential inauguration, a triumphant moment for the Civil Rights movement her music had influenced so deeply. “When it comes to expressing yourself through song, there is no one who can touch her,” Mary J. Blige told Rolling Stone in 2008. “She is the reason why women want to sing.”
Over the course of her six-decade career, Franklin garnered 44 Grammy nominations, winning 18, and became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. In 1994, at the age of 52, Franklin became the youngest-ever recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor.
Looking back in 2016 at her version of “Respect,” Franklin elucidated both her own recording and its cultural impact. “I loved it, and I wanted to cover it just because I loved it so much,” she said. “And the statement was something that was very important, and where it was important to me, it was important to others. It’s important for people. Not just me or the Civil Rights movement or women — it’s important to people. I was asked what recording of mine I’d put in a time capsule, and it was ‘Respect.’ Because people want respect — even small children, even babies. As people, we deserve respect from one another.”
The sheer breadth and depth of her legacy will live on. Rest in peace, Aretha.