Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, died Thursday at her home in Detroit at the age of 76. For decades, Aretha Franklin has been celebrated as one of the greatest American singers of any genre, who helped give birth to soul and redefined the American musical tradition. In 1987, Aretha Franklin became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She held the record for the most songs on the Billboard Top 100 for 40 years. Rolling Stone ranked her the greatest singer of all time on its top 100 list, calling her “a gift from God.” Her hit single “Respect” became part of the soundtrack to the civil rights movement, which she also supported behind the scenes. We speak with professors Mark Anthony Neal of Duke University and Farah Jasmine Griffin of Columbia University.
James B. Duke professor of African & African American studies at Duke University, where he is also the founding director of the Center for Arts, Digital Culture and Entrepreneurship. He is the host of the weekly webcast called Left of Black, and he blogs at newblackman.blogspot.com. He’s the author of What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture and Songs in the Keys of Black Life: A Rhythm and Blues Nation.
professor of English and comparative literature and African-American studies at Columbia University, author of If You Can’t Be Free, Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday and Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics in New York During World War II. Her latest article for The Nation is headlined “Aretha Franklin—Musical Genius, Truth Teller, Freedom Fighter.”