Remembering Aretha Franklin

Bryan Parys
August 16, 2018

In light of the sad news of vocal titan Aretha Franklin '06H passing away at age 76, we remember her the best way we can: through her soul-shaking music.

Aretha Franklin at the 2006 Berklee commencement proceedings
Aretha Franklin at the 2006 Berklee commencement proceedings, where she was awarded an honorary doctorate.
Image by Phil Farnsworth

It's impossible to sum up the life and legacy of Aretha Franklin and her music, which spanned over six decades by the time of her passing at age 76. Known for her soaring and era-defining soulful voice, Franklin was never bound by genre, reimagining tunes by everyone from Otis Redding to the Beatles to latter-day R&B acolyte Adele, infusing every performance with something fiercely individual and commanding. Her musical legacy is felt daily on campus, whether it's through a Franklin-focused ensemble or stories from faculty such as Tia Fuller, who has performed with the Grammy-winning diva. In 2006, Franklin was awarded a Berklee honorary doctorate, cementing her place in the Berklee canon.

Toward the end of a high octane take on "Respect," her signature song that became an anthem for civil rights and feminism, Franklin says to an ecstatic crowd in 1971 at the Fillmore West—where she was the first R&B performer to headline—"We're gonna ask you to do just one thing... Loan your soul to us for a few minutes. I promise we'll give it back." Take a listen to the following playlist that takes stock of Franklin's expansive musical legacy, and see if your soul isn't lifted when you get it back.

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