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Top 25 Greatest Hits by Aretha Franklin

The Queen of Soul captivated hearts, touched souls, and brought happiness into people’s lives.

Jennifer Dixon

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“Music does a lot of things for a lot of people. It’s transporting, for sure. It can take you right back, it’s uplifting, it’s encouraging, it’s strengthening.” 

– Aretha Franklin

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, has accomplished so much throughout her five decade career. She won 18 Grammy Awards and released over 40 albums.

In an interview with Achievement.org, Franklin talks about her upbringing, career, and more. Franklin’s powerful four-octave range captivated hearts, touched souls, and brought happiness into people’s lives. She will always be the most iconic, greatest voice of all time. Franklin has written and recorded several songs that not only changed and influenced music history, but impacted many generations forever.

The list below is not only my favorite songs by Franklin, but I consider them to be her greatest hits. Franklin and her live performances were so significant.

According to National Public Radio, “What Aretha’s lifetime of freewheeling exuberance demonstrates is that the best soul music is rooted in an artistic commitment to creative spontaneity, and a desire to turn every performance into an improvisational singularity that can never be repeated the same way twice. Skill, command and exceptional accomplishment are what we came to expect of any given Aretha Franklin performance.”

  1. “Respect” (1967) – Aretha Franklin often gave valuable lessons about life within her music, especially when she spells out R-E-S-P-E-C-T. According to CBS News, Franklin said, “My sister Carolyn and I got together and — I was living in a small apartment on the west side of Detroit, piano by the window, watching the cars go by — and we came up with that infamous line, the ‘sock it to me’ line.” In an interview with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross in 1999, Franklin said, “Some of the girls were saying that to the fellas, like ‘sock it to me’ in this way or‘sock it to me’ in that way. It’s not sexual. It was nonsexual, just a cliche line.” 
  2. “Think” (1968) – Franklin made a comeback when she appeared in the movie, “The Blues Brothers
  3. “Chain of Fools” (1968) – Franklin performed the classic hit on the Mike Douglas Show.
  4. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (1971) – According to RollingStone, Paul Simon said, “I took it to mainstream radio. Then Aretha so brilliantly brought it back to church.” Aretha’s rendition of the song reached Number Six on the Hot 100 in 1971. It remained a key part of her live act until the very end.”
  5. “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”(1968) – In 2015, Franklin performed at the Kennedy Center Honors as a tribute to Carole King.
  6. “Amazing Grace” (1972) – In 2003, Franklin’s performance of “Amazing Grace” on the Oprah Winfrey Show had Oprah in tears.
  7. “Rock Steady” (1972) – Franklin sings “Rock Steady” on Soul Train.
  8. “I Say A Little Prayer” (1968) – Franklin recorded Dionne Warwick’s classic hit in 1968. In an article published on Good House Keeping, “Aretha and the Sweet Inspirations were just fooling around with the number during rehearsals when they stumbled on a good thing. The song was recorded in one take.”   
  9. “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” (1967) – In 2009, Franklin performed this song on the 25th Rock &Roll Hall of Fame anniversary show.
  10. “Dr. Feelgood (Love Is a Serious Business)” (1967) – She performed on a show called “Reeling in the Years.”
  11. “Don’t Play That Song” (1970) – Franklin performed on Cliff Richard Show.
  12. “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” (1974) – She and Stevie Wonder perform together on a show called “Lady of Soul” in 2005.
  13. “A Rose Is Still A Rose” (1998) – Franklin collaborated with Lauryn Hill. Franklin also recorded this song when she was 58 years old.
  14. “Precious Lord” (1956) – Franklin sang this song at Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral.  
  15.  “Ain’t No Way” (1968) – According to the NY Daily News, “Aretha could sing a lunch menu or a list of ingredients on a can of processed food and make it sound like something special. She had hits in soul, pop, R&B, and gospel, but I was always a fan of her bluesy tunes, the B-side songs, if you can remember back that far.”
  16.  “Freeway of Love” (1985) – Franklin released the official music video for her single “Freeway of Love.
  17. “Mary Don’t You Weep” (1972) – Franklin belts out this gospel classic,  sitting at the piano with Don Cornelius.
  18. “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” (1976) –You may remember hearing this song in the 1976 movie “Sparkle.” Franklin performs on the Midnight Special.
  19.  “Climbing Higher Mountains” (1972) – She sings “Climbing Higher Mountains” at her father C.L Franklin’s church.
  20. “Call Me” (1970) – She performed “Call Me” at Filmore West on March 7, 1971.
  21. “How I Got Over” (1972) – Franklin sings “Amazing Grace” & “How I Got Over” at Pope John Paul II visit to Detroit on September 19, 1987 at Hart Plaza.
  22. “A Change Is Gonna Come” (1967) – Franklin performs “A Change Is Gonna Come” at the 2014 BET Honors.
  23. “Day Dreaming” (1972) – Franklin returns to the Soul Train stage and performs “Day Dreaming.”
  24. “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” ft.George Michael (1986) – In an article published on Smooth Radio, Franklin said, “We had a super time. He was calling most of the shots: how he wanted this, how he wanted that. My older sister, Erma, just fell for him right away. He was very friendly and personable, easy to talk to.”
  25. “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” (1967) – Franklin performed this classic hit on the Merv Griffin Show.

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

Jennifer is a graduate student studying English at Governors State University. She loves music and writing, which fueled her interest for a career in music journalism. She is currently working towards finishing her degree. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music, shopping, and advocating for those with Cerebral Palsy.

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