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From Harlem to the Moon: What Aretha Franklin meant to America

Accomplishments? Yes, Aretha Franklin had them.
American soul singer Aretha Franklin, a star on the Atlantic record label. (Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images)
Key Takeaways
  • 44 Grammy nominations
  • 18 Grammy awards
  • 112 charted Billboard singles
  • 77 Hot 100 entries
  • 17 top-ten pop singles
  • 100 R&B entries
  • 20 #1 R&B singles
  • 75 million records sold worldwide
  • 1987 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — the first woman to do so
  • 2005 induction to the UK Music Hall of Fame — only the second woman up to that point
  • 2012 induction into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame
  • Cover of Time magazine, June, 1968
  • Received Hollywood Walk Of Fame star in 1979 10 honorary degrees

These are just some of the accomplishments of the singer, who died August 16 at age 76 of pancreatic cancer. 



US President Barack Obama fist bumps with singer Aretha Franklin who sung during a farewell ceremony for Attorney General Eric Holder at the Justice Department February 27, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Her parents split when she was seven years old, her mother dying of a heart attack when she was 10. It was soon after that Franklin began to play piano by ear, almost as if she turned that grief into something that transcended. 

Beginning with gospel songs, she started to make a name for herself. This brought her to California with her father, and a fateful meeting with Sam Cooke.

When she turned 18, she told her father that she wanted to follow in Cooke’s footsteps, and moved to New York to begin charting her success in the music industry.


The words ‘Aretha Makes Me Feel Like A Natural Woman’ are seen at the stairwell leading to the Franklin Street subway station in New York on August 16, 2018. – ‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin passed away August 16, 2018 in Detroit at the age of 76. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP/ Getty Images)

Memorable and meaningful moments in her life were plenty. She toured with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and sang at his funeral; offered to post bail for African American political activist Angela Davis when she was arrested, citing, “I know you got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace,”; she sang ‘My Country, ’Tis of Thee’ at Barack Obama’s first inauguration 

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There’s so much more about her, and her life, that has been recounted and told in the form of stories, that there’s no way to do it all justice. 

So here are some of the quotes on Twitter from various people and organizations in recognition of who she was:

We’re very sad to hear about the #QueenofSoul passing. Rock Steady Aretha.
From your steady rock out in space. pic.twitter.com/1rbBRlRUW7

— NASA Moon (@NASAMoon) August 16, 2018

#CorettaScottKing with the #QueenOfSoul. #ArethaFranklin pic.twitter.com/VinGBi00R0

— The King Center (@TheKingCenter) August 17, 2018

ROCK. STEADY!! Honoring #ApolloLegend Aretha Franklin and paying R-E-S-P-E-C-T to the #QueenOfSoul in the way only #Harlem can! pic.twitter.com/LR8CIppHUx

— Apollo Theater (@ApolloTheater) August 16, 2018

Aretha Franklin is the reason why I sing from that part deep inside of me that few could ever reach. She was my favorite and will always be. What a gift she has left all of us with her musical footprints. There will never be another like her. She was truly special. #QueenOfSoul — Kelly Clarkson (@kelly_clarkson) August 16, 2018

Finally, there is the time, in 2015, when she sang, 'A Natural Woman' at the Kennedy Center in celebration of Carole King’s official medal from the White House. Barack Obama himself commented on it later. You can see him wiping a tear from his eye early on in the below clip.

"American history wells up when Aretha sings," President Obama explained. "Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R&B, rock and roll—the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope.”


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