In 1987, Aretha Franklin became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – a fitting tribute to the "Queen of Soul," the woman who for more than 50 years has been the expressive, passionate voice of soul music. More than 20 years later, Franklin continues to be a driving force in the world of music, and I am thrilled to announce her as The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's 2011 American Music Masters honoree.
The American Music Masters series will honor Ms. Franklin with a weeklong celebration beginning on October 31, featuring special events presented by the Rock Hall and series partner Case Western Reserve University.
Aretha Franklin is a masterful singer, pianist, performer and arranger, whose catalog of recordings highlights a brilliant versatility that spans myriad genres: gospel, jazz, blues, pop standards, rock, funk – the list goes on. She constantly breaks down boundaries between styles of American music, revealing the connections between them, across generations. In the words of Princeton University professor Daphne Brooks, she has “reinvented the fabric of our musical culture.” In the process, she has inspired millions of people around the world to sing, to speak, to climb higher mountains.
Last year, Columbia released an extraordinary box set of her albums from the first half of the 1960s, Take a Look: Aretha Franklin Complete on Columbia. This period, often overlooked in her catalog, reveals a talented young woman honing her craft in New York City. I’m still discovering its rich treasures. Then in May, she released her latest solo album, A Woman Falling Out Of Love, a powerful, joyous record. And just last week, it was announced that she would sing at the dedication of the memorial for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. later this month. I can’t think of any other contemporary performer who can hold these threads together, and who symbolizes our deepest desires for freedom.