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soul queen The new Aretha Franklin biopic shows how she had to fight for a little respect

But queen of soul's deep faith brought her peace in the end


Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin

I can't wait to see the new film about the life of Aretha Franklin, the ultimate queen of 'soul'.

Appropriately it is called Respect. Even though Aretha came from a well-off family her early life was a constant struggle to gain respect as an artist and as a person.

Her mother was a talented singer and musician who married a famous Baptist preacher, Rev C.L. Franklin. He was immersed in the campaign for civil rights with Dr Martin ­Luther King Jr.

Later she learned her Church and the fight for civil rights were intimately connected.

Aretha's contribution was to perform at Dr King's fundraisers. When her parents divorced, Aretha who was only 10 years old, stayed with her domineering father.

He was a well-paid Pastor of the New Bethel Baptist Church and recognised that Aretha, even at 10 years old, was an exceptionally gifted performer.

She learned to sing in public by belting out classics like Amazing Grace in church; she learned to play piano, brilliantly, by ear.

Aretha was devastated at the age of 10 when her mother Barbara died.

When she was 11 years old, her father often got her out of bed to sing at the lavish parties he held. Frequently, he brought her downstairs to sing for his guests.


Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin

One night one guest followed her to her bedroom and raped the child. She had her first child at the age of 12.

A few years later, she had another child, fathered by the same man.

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In 1960, when Aretha reached 18, she convinced her father to move to New York to record. Her sisters Erma and Carolyn became her back-up singers. Erma also collaborated on writing songs.

In 1966, Aretha signed with Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records.

It was he who put the Muscle Shoals band behind her. She quickly realised their talent, and Atlantic released her first gold album, "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You." Hits like "Chain of Fools" and "I Say a Little Prayer" then followed. "Respect" was an Otis Redding song, but Aretha's version is celebrated as the classic recording of a classic song.

To this day it is the ultimate civil rights song as well as the anthem for women's rights.

Success and the subsequent touring took its toll on Aretha, Her marriage broke down and she became alcohol dependent.

She was heartbroken when Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated, and she gave a stunning performance at his funeral.

Aretha did things other female artists did not.

She took over management of her career when her ­marriage to Ted White ended.

She ­insisted producers treat her with respect and call her "Ms. Franklin."

She became more active in the civil rights activity and was once imprisoned in Detroit, yet always remained the most influential female singer of the 1960s.

She was the first woman inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.

All of this should make the film Respect compelling viewing. Add in the ­concerts, the recordings, and that ­famous Gospel concert in her little church, which was shown for the first time after her death.

Like many stars and divas Aretha Franklin endured a roller-coaster life.

Fame came at a price. Yet her talent endured and her deep faith returned to bring her both peace and stability at the end.

Don't be surprised when Respect becomes both an Oscar and a Grammy winner.

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