Early Aretha Franklin: How her career began back in the ’60s

Aretha Franklin - Aretha - With The Ray Bryant Combo 1961

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Freshest and most explosive singing personality of the year!

From The Pittsburgh Courier (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) – March 4, 1961

Aretha Franklin in making a big dent, nationally, with Columbia Records, and currently on tour or the nation’s top showplaces. Aretha is the girl to watch!

Just 18 years old, Aretha moves flawlessly in her vocals — from spiritual, to blues to jazz and to pop; and her ability as a pianist is something more to reckon with.

Public acceptance by both young and old thus far have Aretha Franklin tabbed as one of this year’s great young talents. And her popularity is steadily growing!

Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody - Aretha Franklin

Early Aretha Franklin: Jump and bounce

A new singer, Aretha Franklin, only 18, evokes plenty of jump and bounce on a new Columbia Stereo LP, “Aretha Franklin,” with the Ray Bryant Trio.

Aretha sang in a church choir, and her gospel singing technique is employed on tunes like “Won’t Be Long,” “Love Is the Only Thing,” “Right Now” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” At times, she borders on rock ’n’ roll. But, on “Over the Rainbow,” she sings softly and sweetly.

From Journal and Courier (Lafayette, Indiana) – April 1, 1961

18-year-old Aretha Franklin attracting her own attention

Aretha Franklin, 18, first attracted attention on records when she appeared with her father’s gospel group. She now has her own Columbia album, “Aretha,” and sings with the Ray Bryant Trio.

She rocks as she sings “Who Needs You,” turns “Are You Sur”e from The Unsinkable Molly Brown into a gospel chant, and is really tops with the ballad, “All Night Long.”

From Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Florida) – June 4, 1961

ALSO SEE: James Brown: How the Godfather of Soul got on, got on up the charts

Aretha Franklin - Aretha - With The Ray Bryant Combo 1961

About early Aretha Franklin music: Soul in songs

By Dick Kleiner – The Billings Gazette (Billings, Montana) – December 3, 1961

One of the most unusual singing styles to catch the public ear in recent years belongs to Columbia’s young Aretha Franklin. And, like most singers who have distinctive styles, she hasn’t the foggiest idea where it came from.

But, if you analyze her career, it becomes obvious that the Franklin style is based on gospel singing. Added is a smattering of virtually every other kind of music and great heaping portions of her own soul.

Listen to her “Dixie Melody,” the latest Aretha Franklin single [below]. You may not like her way with a song-many people don’t — but there’s no denying that it is her very own way and unlike anybody else’s.

Aretha comes from Detroit, where her father, Rev. C.L. Franklin, is a minister. He’s also a working gospel singer who records for Chess Records.

Aretha started touring with her father when she was 14, and made her first records (also for Chess) a few years later. She has two sisters — Irma, who is older, and Caroline, who is younger — who now are with Epic Records. The three girls are currently planning to get together and do an album.

MORE: Meet music legend Stevie Wonder, who started his music career at age 13

As a child, Aretha says, “there was always music in our house — the radio was going in one room, the record player in another, the piano banging away in the living room.”

She grew up liking all kinds of music. She sings country music (and loves it), sings the blues (and loves it), sings rock-‘n’-roll (and loves it) and is seriously thinking now about studying opera (which she loves). She plays the piano, the xylophone and the guitar — all by ear — and she would like to study classical piano.

All this music is fused in her style, but gospel is there in the biggest proportion. That’s because she first sang professionally as a gospel artist.

“Then I decided to try the pop field,” she says. “I knew I could sing pop, but wanted to find out if I could make a go of it. I made some demonstration records, took them to Columbia, and they signed me. Just like that.”

She’s proved that she could make a go of it. And, in so doing, added a fresh and vital new voice to popular music.

A young Aretha Franklin performs Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody (video)

YouTube video

Aretha Franklin concerts

Apollo Theater in New York (April 1961) and in Kansas City (August 1961)

Aretha Franklin concerts from 1961

ALSO SEE: How famed rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix died – and lived (1970)


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