The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum will honor Aretha Franklin for the 16th Annual American Music Masters® series

Lady Soul: The Life and Music of Aretha Franklin will take place this fall in Cleveland

CLEVELAND (August 23, 2011) –
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and Case Western Reserve University will honor Aretha Franklin, one of the greatest singers in popular music, during the 16th annual American Music Masters® series this November.

Lady Soul: The Life and Music of Aretha Franklin, a weeklong celebration, will tell the story of the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In conjunction with the Museum’s latest special exhibit, Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power, the Museum will honor Franklin’s work and her enduring influence.

“I’m thrilled and delighted to be honored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for American Music Masters,” said Aretha Franklin. “I’m really looking forward to being there. I’m so happy about what Ahmet Ertegun and the Hall of Fame created. The exhibits are a must see.”

“All of us at the Museum are thrilled that Ms. Franklin will be receiving our American Music Masters award in the year where we are honoring Women Who Rock,” said Terry Stewart, President and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. “Not only has she long set the paradigm for vocalists and performers around the world, she has also been a great friend and supporter of the Rock Hall on so many of our exhibits and fundraising events. As such, the opportunity to now honor her for her impact on both music and popular culture is unprecedented.”

“Aretha Franklin’s work as a singer, songwriter, pianist, and arranger is unparalleled,” said Dr. Lauren Onkey, Vice President of Education and Public Programs and Executive Producer of the program.  “Her vast catalog shows her mastery of gospel, soul, and pop music, and her singular piano playing defines soul music. We are honored to tell her story to a wide audience, including students.”

The annual program begins on Monday, October 31, and will feature interviews, panels, films and educational programs throughout the week, including a keynote lecture and other events at Case Western Reserve University. On Saturday, November 5, a conference will be held at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, exploring Franklin’s impact on popular music. The tribute concert will be held Saturday, November 5, at 7:30 p.m. at PlayhouseSquare’s State Theater in Cleveland. Ticket information will be announced in the coming weeks. Franklin will attend the tribute concert to accept the award but is not scheduled to perform. Sign up for the Rock Hall’s e-newsletter to be alerted when tickets will go on sale at A limited number of VIP packages beginning at $250 are available by contacting or 216.515.1207.

Each year, the American Music Masters® series explores the legacy of a pioneering rock and roll figure in a range of events that includes Museum exhibits, lectures, films, a major conference and a tribute concert benefiting the Rock Hall’s education programs. Drawing together experts, artists, fans and friends, these events provide new perspectives on the most beloved and influential musicians of the past century.

The tribute concert brings together a diverse mix of artists and musical styles, and as a result, many magical moments have taken place over the years. In 2004, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss performed onstage together for the first time to honor Lead Belly. The pair was awarded the highest honors of Album of the Year for Raising Sand and Record of the Year for "Please Read the Letter" at the 51st annual Grammy awards. Honoree Jerry Lee Lewis, who was not scheduled to perform at the 2007 concert, was moved to take the stage at the end of the show. Lewis tenderly played the piano and sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. At the first American Music Masters tribute concert, Bruce Springsteen set the bar high and performed in honor of Woody Guthrie. The most star-studded and unique performance by a trio was Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke and Elvis Costello paying tribute to Sam Cooke in 2005. In 2008, a 93-year-old Les Paul took the stage with his trio and then led an epic jam with some of rock and roll’s greatest guitarists, from Jennifer Batten to Slash. Janis Joplin was honored in 2009 by Grammy winner Lucinda Williams with a song she composed especially for the occasion, and in 2010, Dave Bartholomew brought down the house with a performance in tribute of honorees Fats Domino and Bartholomew himself.

The Ohio Arts Council helped fund this program with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment of all Ohioans.

About Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin is the “Queen of Soul” and the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She is a singer of great passion and control whose finest recordings define the term soul music in all its deep, expressive glory.

“I don’t think there’s anybody I have known who possesses an instrument like hers and who has such a thorough background in gospel, the blues and the essential black-music idiom,” noted Ahmet Ertegun, cofounder of Atlantic Records, where much of Franklin’s best work was done. “She is blessed with an extraordinary combination of remarkable urban sophistication and deep blues feeling....The result is maybe the greatest singer of our time.”

Born Aretha Louise Franklin in Memphis, Tennessee on March 25, 1943, her family moved to Detroit when she was two. She remains a Detroiter to this day, a proud product of that city’s wide-ranging and rich musical heritage.

Her professional career has had three dramatic turning points, one more exciting than the next.

The first was her move from gospel to secular. At 18, her progressive preacher father brought her to Columbia Records’ John Hammond, the man who had discovered and recorded Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday (and later Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen). At the largest label in the world—the home of Mahalia Jackson, Miles Davis, and Barbra Streisand—the plan was to turn Aretha into a teenage superstar singing standards and jazz. Those records—especially her 1963 tribute to Dinah Washington and the remarkable “Skylark” in the same year—remain classics. She performed in New York’s hippest jazz clubs with artists like Art Blakey and John Coltrane. Additionally, in conjunction with writer producer Clyde Otis, Aretha enjoyed a string of R&B hits: “Running Out of Fools,” “Soulville,” and “You’ll Lose A Good Thing.”

The second shift was seismic. In 1967, Aretha jumped from Columbia to Atlantic Records where Jerry Wexler became her producer. Everything changed; she suddenly rocked our musical world like no one else before or since. As Aretha wrote in From These Roots, her 1999 autobiography, “I felt a natural affinity for the Atlantic sound. Atlantic meant soul.” Aretha took soul to another level. Anchored at the piano, she also took a co-producer role in arranging both music and vocals. The result altered history. Starting with “I Never Loved A Man (the Way I Loved You),” she claimed ownership of the bestselling charts. Her “Respect” became a multi-dimensional anthem, a sound piece for the civil rights movement and rallying cry for all groups suffering neglect and discrimination. “Dr. Feelgood,” “Chain of Fools,” “Do Right Woman—Do Right Man”—Aretha defined the sixties. At the funeral for Dr. Martin Luther King, it was Aretha who led the nation in musical mourning. Her cultural iconography was permanently established, the recognition of her genius an established fact. She would wind up winning no less than 18 Grammys.
Of her work at Atlantic Records during that charmed period, Franklin offered these recollections in her autobiography: “Jerry [Wexler] handled all the technical aspects and made sure I put my personal stamp on these songs. Atlantic provided TLC – tender loving care – in a way that made me feel secure and comfortable....Putting me back on piano helped Aretha-ize the new music....The enthusiasm and camaraderie in the studio were terrific, like nothing I had experienced at Columbia. This new Aretha music was raw and real and so much more myself. I loved it!”
Not one to accept categorization, Aretha went to church in 1971 to record Amazing Grace that, in the words of colleague and mentor James Cleveland “is the most successful gospel album ever made.”

When critics remarked on Aretha’s return to church, she commented, “I never left church and never will. Church is my heart. Church is where I was born and where I live.”

The late seventies were challenging times for singers of the soul. Disco swept the country and knocked more than a few established stars off the charts. But Aretha, long the established Queen of Soul, maintained her crown with tenacious grace. While others fell away, she survived. By the start of the new decade, she found a new champion in music mogul Clive Davis. Her third turning point came in 1980 when she signed with Davis’ Arista.

What followed was a series of brilliant albums and singles. Aretha teamed with star producers Luther Vandross (“Jump to It”) and Narada Michael Walden (“Freeway of Love” and “Who’s Zooming Who.”) She sang hits duet with George Michael (“I Knew You Were Waiting [For Me])” and Elton John (“Through the Storm”). In 1987, she self-produced her second landmark gospel record, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism.

Aretha was the musical highlight of Whoopi Goldberg’s film Jumpin’ Jack Flash, backed up by the Rolling Stones. And her appearances in both Blues Brothers films received universal acclaim.

The legend expanded in the nineties when Aretha’s “Rose Is Still A Rose,” penned and produced by Lauryn Hill, was named “soul hit of the decade” by the L.A. Times. Her appearance on MTV’s Divas Live, together with Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan and Shania Twain, became another high point.

In 1987 Aretha became the very first woman to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Seven years later, she became the youngest artist to receive the Kennedy Centers Honor.    

Perhaps the most thrilling moment of all came in 1998 at the 40th Grammy Awards at Radio City Music Hall. Before a worldwide audience of 1.5 billion, Aretha stepped in for an ailing Luciano Pavarotti at the last minute and interpreted Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma” to operatic perfection.

On December 17, 2008, then President-elect Barack Obama turned to the Queen to render her inimitable version of "My Country 'Tis Of Thee."

“If you look over the arc of her career,” said Jerry Wexler, “there is no American musical artist who has achieved her level of accomplishment. It has been one triumph after another.”

As a measure of her impact, Aretha Franklin has charted more Top Forty singles - forty-five in all, since 1961 - than any other female performer. To date she has made the R&B singles chart ninety-eight times, including twenty Number Ones. Franklin has also earned eighteen Grammy Awards, the most recent coming in 2007. In addition, she has sung at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton and received the Presidential Medal of Honor from President George W. Bush.
Franklin suffered some health issues in 2010, including broken ribs and a major surgery. However, she released a new album in 2011 (A Woman Falling Out of Love) and returned to live performing in better health and high spirits.
All along, the basis of Aretha Franklin’s success – and the essence of soul music - has been her ability to communicate. “Music is my way of communicating that part of me I can get out front and share,” she told Essence magazine in 1973. “It’s what I have to give; my way of saying, ‘Let’s find one another.’”

About the American Music Masters® Series

The American Music Masters® series, a co-production of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University, celebrates the lives and careers of artists who changed the shape and sound of American culture.

The American Music Masters® series began in 1996 when the museum paid tribute to Woody Guthrie with a 10-day celebration of his life and legacy. American Music Masters® series honorees have included: Jimmie Rodgers in 1997, Robert Johnson in 1998, Louis Jordan in 1999, Muddy Waters in 2000, Bessie Smith in 2001, Hank Williams in 2002, Buddy Holly in 2003, Lead Belly in 2004, Sam Cooke in 2005, Roy Orbison in 2006, Jerry Lee Lewis in 2007, Les Paul in 2008, Janis Joplin in 2009 and Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew in 2010. Artists who have performed at American Music Masters® include Solomon Burke, Elvis Costello, Aretha Franklin, Chrissie Hynde, Dr. John, Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, Richie Sambora, Slash, Bruce Springsteen, Lucinda Williams and The Ventures.

About the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is the nonprofit organization that exists to educate visitors, fans and scholars from around the world about the history and continuing significance of rock and roll music. It carries out this mission both through its operation of a world-class museum that collects, preserves, exhibits and interprets this art form and through its library and archives as well as its educational programs.

The Museum is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. On Wednesdays (and Saturdays through Labor Day), the Museum is open until 9 p.m. Museum admission is $22 for adults, $18 for adult residents of Greater Cleveland, $17 for seniors (65+), $13 for youth (9-12), children under 8 and Museum Members are always free, for information or to join the membership program call 216. 515.8425. For general inquiries, please call 216.781.ROCK or visit  The Museum is generously funded by Cuyahoga County residents through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture.

About Case Western Reserve University

Case Western Reserve University is among the nation’s leading research institutions. Founded in 1826 and shaped by the unique merger of the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University, Case Western Reserve is distinguished by its strengths in education, research, service, and experiential learning. Located in Cleveland, Case Western Reserve offers nationally recognized programs in the Arts and Sciences, Dental Medicine, Engineering, Law, Management, Medicine, Nursing, and Social Work. Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities Established in 1996 with a generous gift of endowment from Eric and Jane Nord to celebrate the achievements of the arts and humanities, the Center facilitates cross-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary collaborations that address questions and problems of broad human interest.