Many of Franklin’s hits, from “Chain of Fools” in 1967 to “Think” in 1968 to “Day Dreaming” in 1972, are staples of classic soul. Franklin’s contributions, however, were not only musical, but also, political—and she was an important figure in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s and 1970s.
Here are five of the Queen of Soul’s most important contributions to civil rights and politics in the United States.
1. “Respect” Became a Civil Rights Anthem
Aretha Franklin was not the first soul icon to record “Respect,” which was written by Otis Redding and originally recorded in 1965. But when the Queen of Soul recorded her famous 1967 version, it became one of her most definitive hits. Although the song is mainly about respect in romantic relationships, it was adopted as a political protest anthem by both the civil rights movement and the feminist movement. The late Jerry Wexler, who produced Franklin’s version for Atlantic Records, asserted that it “had overtones of the civil-rights movement and gender equality” and “was an appeal for dignity.”