There’s been a lot of buzz around NatGeo’s four-part series, Genius: Aretha, starring Oscar-nominated actress Cynthia Erivo as Aretha. The series that premiered this Sunday, is a reminder of Aretha’s strong voice and unwavering talent.
While the series has been met with some controversy, there’s no denying that Cynthia Erivo was dedicated to putting her heart and soul into this role. Aretha was more than just a soul singer. The songwriter, actress, pianist, and civil rights activist spent a majority of her life trying to use her gift in the midst of a race war.
Despite the racial climate, Franklin recorded 112 charted singles on Billboard, including 77 Hot 100 entries, 17 top-ten pop singles, 100 R&B entries, and 20 number-one R&B singles. She also became the first female performer to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. In 2005, she was inducted into he UK Music Hall of Fave and in 2012, she made it into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
Although the icon transitioned in 2018, her legacy lives on through her music, activism, and overall spirit. In honor of the NatGeo debut, we’re taking a walk down memory lane. Here are 5 of Aretha Franklin’s most iconic moments.
1. ARETHA FRANKLIN AND SMOKEY ROBINSON, 1979Source:Getty
In this photo, Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson are seated at the piano and being interviewed by Don Cornelius after performing a live version of “”Ooo Baby Baby”” together on Soul Train episode 314, which aired on 12/1/1979.
2. ARETHA FRANKLIN PERFORMS ON SOUL TRAIN, 1976Source:Getty
Aretha Franklin performed on Soul Train episode 197, which aired on 11/13/1976. Soul Train has featured some of the most iconic musicians in Black History. During this time period, shows like this allowed fans to connect to musicians and artists like Franklin.
3. ARETHA FRANKLIN PERFORMS FOR THE DEMOCRATIC SENATORIAL CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE, 1992Source:Getty
The “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin wowed the crowd at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign committee fall dinner in the Grand Ballroom of the Washington Hilton Hotel Washington DC., on September 23, 1992.
Looks like Franklin gave the performance of a lifetime. She graced the stage in a gorgeous emerald green tutu.
4. ARETHA FRANKLIN PERFORMS AT A CONCERT, 1991Source:Getty
Aretha Franklin performed at the Holiday Star Theater in Merrillville, Indiana in May of 1991. The timeless singer knows a thing or two about putting on a show. She has performed in front of just about every crowd you can think of.
5. ARETHA FRANKLIN SINGS AT THE 2009 INAUGURATION, 2009Source:Getty
Aretha Franklin sang “My Country Tis of Thee” at the 2009 inauguration of Barack Obama. This monumental event could not have been done without the legendary Aretha Franklin crooning the anthem from the top of her lungs.
6. Queen of Soul Sings An Italian Opera
Luciano Pavarotti suddenly fell ill at the 1998 Grammy Awards in New York and his good friend Aretha Franklin agreed to step in to sing ‘Nessun Dorma’ at – literally – a moment’s notice.