Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin - President's Award

Aretha Franklin

BMHOF Class of 2016

Aretha Franklin’s relationship with the Queen City goes back – way back. In many ways, the city can be regarded as her second home. 

She wasn’t born in Buffalo (her birthplace was in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1942), but her family moved to Western New York in 1944. Her father, C.L. Franklin was pastor at Friendship Baptist Church and did a radio show, “The Voice of Friendship,” mixing calls for civil rights with his religious message.

Aretha’s family moved to Detroit in 1948, but her mother, Barbara Siggers Franklin, moved back to Buffalo to join her family when she split with C.L. in 1948. Aretha was a regular visitor back to Buffalo, spending summers, until her mother – who worked at Buffalo General Hospital – died of a heart attack.  Barbara is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo.

Aretha and her siblings have fond memories of Buffalo.  In her autobiography, she recalled the Cold Springs neighborhood she spent time in and her neighbors there.

In 2014, Buffalo News reporter Mary Kunz Goldman orchestrated a reunion with Wayne Blassingame, one of Aretha’s old friends from the neighborhood, before her show at Artpark. His older brother, Gordon, recalled Aretha as an outgoing tomboyish girl – and in an interview with Kunz Goldman, Aretha recalled having a crush on Gordon.

So Buffalo can lay claim to helping to shape the life of one of the greatest singers American has ever produced. Her artistry and commercial success have put her in the category of legend; in fact, she was the first woman inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Here are some of the career highlights for the “Queen of Soul”:

  • In 2009, Aretha was named the #1 Vocalist of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine.
  • With her ever-distinctive, soulful, to-the-bone vocal style, she has graced music charts for nearly five decades and her live performances have touched the hearts of tens of millions since she began her musical journey in Detroit as a singing child prodigy.
  • Aretha Franklin has earned countless international and national awards as well as accolades and global recognitio. She is a 2005 recipient of a Presidential Medal of Freedom honor (the U.S.A.’s highest civilian honor), presented by President George W. Bush, and in 1999, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts, presented by President Bill Clinton.
  • She sang at the historic inauguration of President Barack Obama (2009) and at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton (1993). She also performed at the inaugural gala for President Jimmy Carter (1997).
  • In 1968, she sang at the funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • She is the recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor; 18 GRAMMY® Awards, including Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for eight consecutive years, a GRAMMY Legend Award, and a GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award; five American Music Awards; and four NAACP Image Awards.
  • In 1979, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
  • In 2007, Franklin was honored at the Annual United Negro College Fund Evening of Stars and was presented with UNCF’s Award of Excellence.
  • She was named 2008 MusiCares® Person of the Year by the Recording Academy, and she was presented with the prestigious NAACP Vanguard Award.
  • In 2010, she was inducted into the Apollo Legends Hall of Fame at the Apollo Theater.
  • Franklin was inducted into the Gospel Music Associations’ Hall of Fame in 2012.
  • To date, she has received 12 Honorary Doctorate Degrees.

For all of those honors, though, perhaps the best way to recognize Aretha Franklin my simply be to list her biggest hits – the songs that have taken her into the heart of America.

Those are songs like: “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You,” “Respect,” “Baby I Love You, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chain Of Fools,” “(Sweet, Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone,” “Think,” “The House That Jack Built,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Spanish Harlem,”  “Rock Steady,” “Day Dreaming,” “Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do),” “Freeway Of Love,” “Who’s Zoomin’ Who,” and “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me).”And those are just the ones that made the Billboard Top 10. If they don’t move you, then you’ve got no soul! 

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