Best Aretha Franklin songs | ‘Women in Music’ series

43 Best Aretha Franklin Songs (The Legend Slot) - Female Original

The Queen of Soul is here for the second playlist in the ‘Women in Music’ series. That’s right Lady Soul herself, Aretha Franklin. For this instalment of the ‘Women in Music’ series, I listened to every one of Aretha Franklin’s studio albums in one month and picked out what I thought were her best tracks to date. Come along to learn more about Aretha Franklin’s music journey and discover my favourite songs of hers.

The ‘Women in Music’ series

The ‘Women in Music’ series is an ongoing music-focused series that focuses specifically on sharing the music of iconic women, and female-fronted bands. In each post within the ‘Women in Music’ series, I’ll take you through a woman, or women-led band, from music that I think is iconic in their own right. I’ll share a bit about their background, their journey in the music industry, and also curate a playlist of my favourite tracks of theirs. This time, Aretha Franklin, the queen of soul is the iconic woman in conversation, but if you want to discover more women in music be sure to check out the full series.

Aretha Franklin | Women in Music

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Aretha Franklin was a singer, songwriter and pianist who started her career as a child when she sang at her local church in Detroit, Michigan. Signing to Columbia Records at 18, and then to Atlantic Records in her mid-20s, Aretha gained massive success with iconic hits such as Respect, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and I Say a Little Prayer. In 1987, she became the first female performer to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and throughout her 50+ year career, she received honours including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and was even listed as the greatest singer of all time by Rolling Stone.

Best Aretha Franklin songs | Women in Music, the playlist

30 albums later, we have a playlist. I say this, but what I loved about listening to Aretha Franklin this month was how easy it was to do it (despite the 30 albums). Aretha just had one of those voices that you could listen to for hours. It’s so smooth. So listening to her entire back catalogue was actually a fairly easy challenge. I always seemed to be in the mood for her music. I have to admit though that I definitely preferred her earlier music. Which is reflected in the tracks that I’ve featured in the playlist. I don’t actually think I put any of her tracks past the 1980s in the playlist. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy her post-80s tunes. It was more of a case of her having SO MANY albums. And the earlier songs are a bit more my thing.

Aretha Franklin | old favourites & new discoveries

Kicking off the old favourites has to be Chain of Fools, Think and Respect – three absolute classics of Aretha’s that I’ll just never get sick of. Another favourite, that I often seem to forget about for no reason in particular, is You Send Me. If you’re a fan of the festive film The Holiday then you might already recognise it from the final scene in the film.

Something that I wasn’t aware of was that Aretha didn’t write a lot of her songs. Quite a few of them were covers of other artists. She even recorded an entire tribute album to Dinah Washington. I already knew that her iconic track (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman was written by Carole King but I didn’t know that Respect, for example, was written by Otis Redding. I think little discoveries like that were what made this playlist that bit more exciting to put together. Not only was I discovering new songs of Aretha’s but I was also discovering who wrote some of my favourites.

43 Best Aretha Franklin Songs (The Legend Slot) - Female Original

Speaking of new discoveries…I found myself recognising a lot of Aretha’s tracks, despite never having heard of them before. Why? Because, as it turns out, a lot of her music has actually been sampled by other artists. *Sampling, in music, is essentially just the act of taking a section of a song and using it in another track.* I’m sure you will have found yourself listening to a track and suddenly thinking, ‘I recognise this!’. Usually, this will be because the song has been sampled from another track. My favourite example of this with Aretha’s music was when I was listening to Spirit in The Dark. I instantly recognised the opening section of the song from Kanye West’s track School Spirit from The College Dropout (2007). I had absolutely no idea that Kanye had sampled Aretha, so discovering the connection on that track was amazing.

More women in music

Have you listened to much of Aretha Franklin’s music before? Which tracks are your favourites of hers? Let me know in the comments. Also, don’t forget to comment below which iconic women in music you want me to feature next in this series.

Nina Simone

Whitney Houston

Kylie Minogue

42 thoughts on “Best Aretha Franklin songs | ‘Women in Music’ series

    1. I had no idea that so many of her songs were written by others – it was definitely an interesting discovery! x

  1. Oh, this is a fab post! I know quite a few of Aretha’s songs, but I have learnt so much about her from reading your post. I didn’t realise that some of her songs were written by others. One of my fav songs is her duet with George Michael (one of my music legends πŸ˜‚) – I knew you were waiting.
    Thanks for sharing this, really enjoyed the post…will be checking out your other legends posts now!

    Aimsy xoxo

    1. I had no idea so many of her songs were written by others either! So glad you enjoyed reading – hopefully you liked the others in the series too. George Michael is defo a music legend! x

  2. ‘so this playlist only covers around 30 of her albums’ – ONLY 30?! That’s incredible. I obviously was aware of her legend status but I had no idea she had that many albums so I’m sure I’d have hundreds of new discoveries too. I had no idea that Kanye had sampled Aretha either, I love it when a sample can mix genres like that x


    1. Haha, thank you! Luckily she had so many great tunes otherwise it would’ve been a bit of a slog getting through them all. I always loved School Spirit so finding out that he sampled Aretha for it was such a cool discovery! x

  3. Wow, I never knew Aretha Franklin released 38 albums, that’s amazing! I’m not surprised though, the songs that I have heard are all brilliant, I especially love ‘Respect’, it is such an uplifting and motivating tune! Thanks for sharing Faye, really interesting post and I agree – she definitely deserves a legend slot! <3 xx

    Bexa |

    1. Ah thanks Bexa! Respect is such a great track – definitely one of my favourites as well. πŸ™‚ x

  4. I can’t say I’ve ever shown a lot of interest in Aretha, I guess she hasn’t really come into my bubble very often, if at all. After reading your blog I think I’m definitely going to pay a little more attention to her body of work and do some digging myself! Who knows, I could have been foolishly missing out on gold this whole time.

    1. So glad that I could inspire you to give her a listen! I hope you enjoy exploring her music – let me know if you do discover any tracks that you like πŸ™‚ x

  5. What an incredible woman! I have to be honest I only know her most famous tracks. Will definitely have a listen to your recommendations. Finding a new favourite is always a good thing xxx

  6. I absolutely love The Queen herself. She’s been a part of my playlist about forever.
    Thanks for sharing <3


    1. She was incredible and her music is still absolutely amazing now! Love that she’s a regular feature on your playlist πŸ™‚ x

    1. Ahh thank you so much! I love a good sample – spotting it in Spirit in The Dark was so cool πŸ™‚ x

    1. Thanks Jenny – glad you liked it! I hope you enjoy listening to the tracks I suggested πŸ™‚ x

  7. Fantastic review! Aretha Franklin was a beautiful woman inside & out. So interesting to read the history. I love her music, and also feel drawn to the earlier hits. One tragic thing is that as successful as she was, Aretha never made a will. Instead of distributing her wealth as she saw fit, it was left up to the courts. Probate is expensive, sucking up a huge chunk of a person’s estate. Get a lawyer, get a revocable trust and will in place if you haven’t done so!

  8. Aretha has been a big hit over her long career! Love that she has been rewarded and recognized for all of her great work. Oh wow, 38 albums is super impressive!!! I feel you about liking the earlier music. Sometimes, it is the originals that sticks!! It is great that her music is still being recognized and played. Thanks for sharing about Aretha!

    Nancy β™₯

  9. Aretha is a queen & a legend!! I’ve been listening to more of her lately since I’ve made it a goal to mindfully listen to older music. I’ve always loved anything from the 80s and back, but I decided that this year I wanted to be intentional and have a little music routine. It’s been great to hear her incredible voice more often xx

    1. That sounds like such a great goal! There’s so many great musicians pre-80s so I’m sure you’ll have a great time listening πŸ™‚ x

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