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Born in 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee, Aretha Franklin found success with the 1961 hit "Won't Be Long (opens in new tab)," which was her first single to chart on the Billboard (opens in new tab) Hot 100.
After 73 Hot 100 entries, 16 top 10 pop singles, 96 R&B chart entries, and 20 number-one R&B singles, Franklin became the most charted female artist in Billboard history. She also won 18 Grammy Awards, sold over 75 million records worldwide, and became the first female performer to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Sadly, on August 16, Franklin passed away at the age of 76 from advanced pancreatic cancer, according to her representative (opens in new tab).
Over the years, Franklin has spoken on the record about various topics, including her musical influences and her personal life. These are some of the funniest, most inspiring, and most revealing quotes from the Queen of Soul.
On Respect for All
“Everybody wants respect,” she said to Rolling Stone (opens in new tab) in 2014. “In their own way, three-year-olds would like respect, and acknowledgment, in their terms.”
On Body Image
"Who hasn’t had a weight issue? If not the body, certainly the big head!" she jokingly told People (opens in new tab) in 2007.
On the Power of Women
"As women, we do have it," she told Elle (opens in new tab) in 2016. "We have the power. We are very resourceful. Women absolutely deserve respect. I think women and children and older people are the three least-respected groups in our society."
"My children have been wonderful. Times when they have been down, they lifted me up," Franklin told Ebony (opens in new tab) in 1995. "But once they pass a certain age, their independence begins to kick in ... you have to learn when to let go. And that's not easy."
On "Respect" and "Natural Woman"
"I didn’t think my songs would become anthems for women. But I’m delighted. Women probably immediately feel compassion and relate to the lyrics. We can all learn a little something from each other, so whatever people can take and be inspired by where my music is concerned is great," Franklin told Time (opens in new tab) in 2017.
On Her Music Contemporaries
On Beyoncé, she proclaimed to the Toronto Star (opens in new tab), "She is a worker, like all Virgos, and I appreciate that. Bootylicious. Oh yes, I want to get me some of that." In that same interview, she shot down rumors of a feud with Patti LaBelle. "There is no truth to the rumors we were fighting at the White House. That’s all made up stuff. We love each other," she said.
"Falling out of love is like losing weight," she said to The Independent (opens in new tab) in 2011. "It's a lot easier putting it on than taking it off."
On Her Illustrious Career
"We didn't have music videos. You weren't an overnight sensation. You had to work at it and learn your craft: how to take care of your voice, how to pace your concerts, all that trial and error. I paid my dues, I certainly did," Franklin told Elle (opens in new tab).
On Her Famous Coat-Dropping Performance
"I wasn’t sure about the air factor onstage, and air can mess with the voice from time to time. And I didn’t want to have that problem that evening. It’s been a long time since I’ve done Kennedy Center (opens in new tab), and I wanted to have a peerless performance (opens in new tab)," Franklin explained to Vogue (opens in new tab) in 2016. "Once I determined that the air was all right while I was singing, I said, “Let’s get out of this coat! I’m feeling it. Let’s go!"
On Her Father's Influence on her Music
"I guess most people call it soul. This is something I got from growing up in my father's [The Reverend C. L. Franklin] church, singing with him and hearing his sermons every Sunday. You hear him preach just one sermon and you'll know that he's a past master of soul," she told Ebony (opens in new tab) in 1964.
"It's the rough side of the mountain that's the easiest to climb; the smooth side doesn't have anything for you to hang on to," she told Ebony (opens in new tab) in 1964.
Temi Adebowale is the Editorial Assistant at Men's Health. She was previously a Newsroom Fellow, writing news stories across Hearst Digital Media's brands. Temi likes Rihanna, animal print, the StairMaster and burritos.
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