She is undisputed music royalty and one of the most influential voices in history. Without Aretha, there would be no Chaka Khan, Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston, to whom she is godmother. A winner of 18 Grammy Awards and the first female artist inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she bridged the racial divide with hits like “Respect,” and “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves.” An inspirational figure, Aretha is pop’s answer to Oprah. Fittingly, Barack Obama asked her to sing at his 2009 presidential inauguration.
Franklin’s career will become the subject of a biopic, based on her memoir, Aretha: From These Roots. In the meantime, the legendary singer is celebrating her 50th anniversary in show business. To mark the occasion, she has released A Woman Falling Out of Love, the first album on her own label, Aretha Records, available exclusively through Wal-Mart. The 12 tracks span all of her styles—gospel, blues, soul and jazz—and find Franklin in fine form, soaring, scatting, growling and belting it out ecstatically.
The album opens with her slow, sensual “How Long I’ve Been Waiting” and shifts into B.B. King’s bluesy “Sweet Sixteen.” Included are movie themes, “A Summer Place” and “The Way We Were,” a duet with r&b star Ron Isley. But the best moments on A Woman Falling Out of Love are “Faithful,” a stirring gospel duet with Karen Clark-Sheard, and “My Country Tis of Thee,” which Franklin sang majestically for President Obama. All hail the Queen of Soul.