In January 1961, Columbia issued Franklin’s first secular album, Aretha: With The Ray Bryant Combo. The album featured her first single to chart the Billboard Hot 100, “Won’t Be Long”, which also peaked at number 7 on the R&B chart. Mostly produced by Clyde Otis, Franklin’s Columbia recordings saw her recording in diverse genres such as standards, vocal jazz, blues, doo-wop and rhythm and blues. Before the year was out, Franklin scored her first top 40 single with her rendition of the standard, “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody”, which also included the R&B hit, “Operation Heartbreak”, on its b-side. “Rock-a-Bye” became her first international hit, reaching the top 40 in Australia and Canada. By the end of 1961, Franklin was named as a “new-star female vocalist” in DownBeat magazine. In 1962, Columbia issued two more albums, The Electrifying Aretha Franklin and The Tender, the Moving, the Swinging Aretha Franklin, the latter of which reached No. 69 on the Billboard chart.
By 1964, Franklin began recording more pop music, reaching the top ten on the R&B chart with the ballad, “Runnin’ Out of Fools” in early 1965. She had two R&B charted singles in 1965 and 1966 with the songs “One Step Ahead” and “Cry Like a Baby” while also reaching the Easy Listening charts with the ballads “You Made Me Love You” and “(No, No) I’m Losing You”. By the mid-1960s, Franklin was netting $100,000 from countless performances in nightclubs and theaters. Also during that period, Franklin appeared on rock and roll shows such as Hollywood A Go-Go and Shindig!. However, Franklin struggled with commercial success while at Columbia. Label executive John H. Hammond later said he felt Columbia did not understand Franklin’s early gospel background and failed to bring that aspect out further during her period there.
In November 1966, after 6 years with Columbia, Franklin chose not to renew her contract with the company and signed to Atlantic Records. In January 1967, she traveled to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to record at FAME Studios and recorded the song, “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” in front of the musicians of the famed Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. The song was later issued that February and reached number one on the R&B chart, while also peaking at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100, giving Franklin her first top ten pop single. The song’s b-side, “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man”, reached the R&B top 40, peaking at number 37. In April, Atlantic issued her frenetic version of Otis Redding’s “Respect”, which shot to number one on both the R&B and pop charts. “Respect” became her signature song and was later hailed as a civil rights and feminist anthem.
Franklin’s debut Atlantic album, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, also became commercially successful, later going gold. Franklin scored two more top ten singles in 1967 including “Baby I Love You” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”. Franklin’s rapport with producer Jerry Wexler helped in the creation of the majority of Franklin’s peak recordings with Atlantic. In 1968, she issued the top-selling albums, Lady Soul and Aretha Now, which included some of Franklin’s most popular hit singles, including “Chain of Fools”, “Ain’t No Way”, “Think” and “I Say a Little Prayer”. In February 1968, Franklin earned the first two of her Grammys, including the debut category for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. On February 16, 1968, Franklin was honored with a day in her honor and was greeted by longtime friend Martin Luther King Jr. who gave her the SCLC Drum Beat Award for Musicians just two months before his death. In June 1968, she appeared on the cover of Time magazine.
Franklin’s success expanded during the early 1970s in which she recorded top ten singles such as “Spanish Harlem”, “Rock Steady” and “Day Dreaming” as well as the acclaimed albums Spirit in the Dark, Young, Gifted and Black, and her gospel album, Amazing Grace, which sold over two million copies. In 1971, Franklin became the first R&B performer to headline Fillmore West, later releasing the live album Aretha Live at Fillmore West. Franklin’s career began to experience problems while recording the album, Hey Now Hey, which featured production from Quincy Jones. Despite the success of the single “Angel”, the album bombed upon its release in 1973. Franklin continued having R&B success with songs such as “Until You Come Back to Me” and “I’m in Love”, but by 1975 her albums and songs were no longer top sellers. After Jerry Wexler left Atlantic for Warner Bros. Records in 1976, Franklin worked on the soundtrack to the film Sparkle with Curtis Mayfield. The album yielded Franklin’s final top 40 hit of the decade, “Something He Can Feel”, which also peaked at number one on the R&B chart. Franklin’s follow-up albums for Atlantic, including Sweet Passion, Almighty Fire and La Diva, bombed on the charts, and in 1979 Franklin opted to leave the company.
(1980 – 1982)
In 1980, after leaving Atlantic Records, Franklin signed with Clive Davis’ Arista Records and that same year gave a command performance at the Royal Albert Hall in front of Queen Elizabeth. Franklin also made an acclaimed guest role as a waitress in the comedy musical, The Blues Brothers. Franklin’s first Arista album, Aretha, featured the No. 3 R&B hit, “United Together” and her Grammy-nominated cover of Otis Redding’s “I Can’t Turn You Loose”. The follow-up, 1981’s Love All the Hurt Away, included her famed duet of the title track with George Benson while the album also included her Grammy-winning cover of Sam & Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Comin'”. Franklin achieved a gold record—for the first time in seven years—with the album Jump to It. Its title track was her first top 40 single on the pop charts in six years.- Wikipedia