Happy Birthday Aretha Franklin: 12 Unforgettable Pop Culture Moments

(Photo property of the AP’s Shea Walsh.)

By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com

Happy Birthday, Aretha Franklin!

On Saturday, The Queen of Soul turned 75-years-old. Jake’s Take is celebrating the music legend’s milestone birthday with 12 unforgettable pop culture moments.


(Photo property of Joe Adams and the Ray Charles Foundation)

“Two to Tango” with Ray Charles (1975)

The Queen of Soul teamed up with the Genius with their interpretation of “It’s Take Two to Tango” on the NBC music variety show’s Midnight Special. The performance was pure vocal bliss, and it set the stage for soul music to dominate for decades to come.

Aretha & The Blues Brothers (1980)

Aretha stole the show when made a cameo in the 1980s’ musical comedy, The Blues Brothers when she portrayed Mrs. Murphy and sang her classic hit: “Think.” When Jake & Elwood Blues tried to recruit Matt “Guitar” Murphy at his diner, the Queen of Soul made a passionate request for him to “Think” about his actions.

When the Godfather met the Queen (1989)

In 1989, songwriters Narada Michael Walden and Jeffrey Cohen wrote: “Gimme Your Love” for two of music’s biggest icons. “Gimme Your Love” was the only recorded collaboration between Ms. Franklin and James Brown, and it reached #48 on the R&B charts.

Aretha meets Murphy Brown (1991)

Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen) had one of the worst newscasts of her career as she was forced to stall when Ms. Franklin was late in the 1991 appropriately titled episode: “The Queen of Soul.” However, when Murphy convinced the Queen to sing for her,  hilarity ensued.

Aretha’s FOX Special (1993)

In 1993, FOX produced an excellent television special that featured some of the music industry’s greatest names including Rod Stewart, Bonnie Raitt, Smokey Robinson, Gloria Estefan, and Sir Elton John. This special remains one of the best moments in prime-time history as it contained once in a lifetime duets such as “Coming Out of the Dark” & “Border Song.”

Soul divas celebrate Oprah’s 40th birthday (1994)

In 1994, Oprah celebrated turning 40-years-old in style with appearances from three of music’s finest voices: Aretha, Patti LaBelle, and Gladys Knight. The three women joined their voices together for an unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime interpretation of “Happy Birthday.”


Aretha Franklin’s “Nessun Dorma” remains one of the show’s greatest moments. (Photo property of the AP’s Mark Lennihan)

Aretha Triumphant (1998)

When the late opera maestro Luciano Pavarotti could not sing his famous aria: “Nessun Dorma” at the 1998 Grammy Awards, the Queen of Soul stepped in at the very last minute. Aretha’s powerful interpretation produced one of the greatest moments in Grammy history.


Aretha Franklin performed her classic: “Chain of Fools” with Mariah Carey at the 1998 VH1 Divas Live. (Photo property of Marion Curtis)

VH1 Divas Live (1998)

VH1 created one of the best cable specials when it brought together some of the most celebrated women in the music industry. The Queen of Soul shared the stage with Carole King, Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan, Mariah Carey, and Shania Twain. While Mariah and Aretha hit it off with a special duet of “Chain of Fools,” it was interesting seeing Celine Dion go toe-to-toe with the Queen when all six performers sang “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” at the end of the evening.

Aretha + Stevie Wonder perform at the Lady of Soul celebration (2005)

The longtime friends (and future collaborators) perform their mutual hit: “Until You’ve Come Back to Me” in front of a live audience at the 10th Annual Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards. This spectacular performance showed both performers at their finest, and the a cappella ending is just an excellent piece of ear candy.


Arehta Franklin sings at President Obama's Inauguration

The Queen of Soul had the privilege of performing “My Country, This of Thee” at President Obama’s 2009 Inauguration. (Photo by Reuters’ Jason Reed)

Aretha sings at President Obama’s first Inauguration (2009)

Ms. Franklin delivered a spectacular cover of “My Country Tis of Thee” during President Barack Obama’s first inauguration ceremony. While The Queen of Soul’s vocals sang across the District of Columbia, it was her larger-than-life silver box hat that became an Internet sensation.

Aretha Franklin’s interview with Wendy Williams (2011)

The Queen of Hot Topics visited Detroit to sit down with the legendary Queen of Soul. In this two-part interview, Wendy and Aretha spill tea and talked about numerous subjects such as her health, Wendy’s appearance on Dancing with the Stars, a possible biopic on her life, and her relationship with Whitney Houston. It was great to watch these two divas exchange gossip and hear Aretha give out zingy one-liners.


(Photo property of CBS)

Aretha makes President Obama and Carole King freak out at the Kennedy Center Honors (2015)

When the Kennedy Center Honors honored Carole King in 2015, the production company behind the show invited Ms. Franklin to perform the hit that Ms. King co-penned with longtime collaborator, Gerry Coffin, that became an anthem: “(You’ve Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” The Queen of Soul delivered a spectacular show-stopper that made Carole King and President Obama embrace their inner fangirl and fanboy. To this day, this performance remains the best Kennedy Center Honors performance under the Obama Administration and proves that legends never die!

I do not own the media links that are featured in the article. They belong to CBS, FOX, NBC, Delmar Mercury, and Ms. Franklin’s record labels.

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Copyright 2020 Jacob Elyachar