Aretha Franklin, the Queen Of Soul
Aretha Franklin, the Queen Of Soul  © Getty  /  Michael Ochs Archives

Aretha Franklin: her 5 greatest hits

1967-1968: in only two years, Aretha Franklin performed and recorded five of soul music's greatest hits. A strong message and show of force by the Queen of Soul.

Who has never danced to "R-E-S-P-E-C-T; Find out what it means to me"? Who has never sung "Oh, freedom!" with the swinging rhythms of Think by Aretha Franklin? 

The singer was not only a great figure of American music, she composed and sang some of the biggest hits of the 20th century, spreading her name and her voice throughout the world.

Here are five of the most unforgettable hits by Aretha Franklin, who sadly passed away on 16 August 2018, at the age of 76. 

Respect (1967)

Respect was composed and first recorded Otis Redding in 1965, and covered two years later by Aretha Franklin for her album  I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You. Contrary to the album's title, Respect is a veritable show of force, almost of anger. The enamoured Aretha demands and imposes respect.

"What you want, honey, you got it, And what you need, baby, you got it, All I'm askin' is for a little respect when I come home": a cover that roared with success and placed Aretha Franklin at the top of the charts. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Respect as the fifth greatest song of all time.

Think (1968)

Another cry of revolt by Aretha! Think, released in 1968 on the album Aretha Now, fifteenth solo recording by Aretha Franklin. "You better think, Think about what you're trying to do to me, Think". A text that fits perfectly with the character of Mrs Murphy, owner of the Soul Food Café in the film The Blues Brothers, released in 1980. 

In this cult film directed by John Landis, which brings together the biggest names in soul music and R'n'B, Aretha Franklin plays the character of Mrs Murphy and performs her song Think when her husband Matt Murphy, played by the guitarist same name, points his finger and says: "I am the man and you are the woman. I'll make the decisions." Mr Murphy had better watch his step...

I Say a Little Prayer (1967)

It was Dionne Warwick who first sang this ballad composed by Burt Bacharach in 1967. The following year, Aretha Franklin covered the song but with the added rhythms and intensity of soul music, an intensity that went perfectly with the theme of prayer. The song's success was instantaneous and international. 

We have here a completely different Aretha Franklin, less rebellious and less wounded. Instead, a woman who prays daily for the man that she loves, and to whom she finally addresses this prayer: 

Answer my prayer baby
Say you'll love me true.

A Natural Woman (1967)

"You make me feel like a natural woman", one simple phrase, a simply cry from the heart by Aretha Franklin, and we instantly recognise this song and jazz standard. A hit composed by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, a writer-composer couple behind some of the biggest hits of the 20th century, including Will You Love Me Tomorrow, The Loco-Motion...

In December 2015, Aretha Franklin moved President Obama to tears by performing this song on the stage of the Kennedy Center, in Washington. 

Chain of Fools (1967)

With this groovy song composed by Don Covay, Aretha Franklin peaked the Hot Rhythm & Blues charts of the Billboard Hot 100, a regular listing of the best songs in America. Chain of Fools has since become one of the Queen of Soul's four greatest songs, and is today part of Rolling Stone magazine's 500 greatest songs of all time.

But who are these "fools"? Put simply, the fools are the countless female conquests of her man, an ironic name given by Aretha as she snaps her fingers: "One of these mornings / The chain is gonna break / But up until the day / I'm gonna take all I can take..."

Classical bonus round

In 2017, the 42nd and final album of Queen of Soul was released. A Brand New Me is an album with a unique conception, consisting of classical arrangements of Aretha Franklin's greatest hits by the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The diva's voice was taken from original recordings with the legendary Atlantic Records studio, to which was later added an orchestral accompaniment. An arduous and meticulous project bringing together 14 of her greatest songs, including Think, I Say a Little Prayer, A Natural Woman and Respect, with a symphonic twist.