Aretha Franklin was one of the greatest singers of all time, and her music continues to captivate audiences decades after her passing. With her soulful voice and powerful lyrics, Franklin paved the way for female artists in the music industry and became an icon in her own right. Her impressive career spanned over six decades, during which she released numerous hit singles and albums, won 18 Grammy Awards, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In this article, we will take a closer look at the 10 best Aretha Franklin songs of all time. From her early hits like “Respect” and “Chain of Fools” to her later ballads like “Natural Woman” and “I Say a Little Prayer,” we will explore the range of her musical talent and the impact she had on the music industry. We’ll also delve into the stories behind the songs and what made them so enduringly popular.
Whether you’re a lifelong fan or a newcomer to her music, this list is a testament to the incredible legacy of Aretha Franklin and a celebration of her timeless contributions to the world of music.
1. Respect (1967)
“Respect” is a song written by Otis Redding but made famous by Aretha Franklin in 1967. The song quickly became an anthem for the civil rights and feminist movements of the era with its powerful lyrics and Franklin’s incredible vocal delivery. The song’s signature refrain, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me,” has become one of the most recognizable lines in popular music. Franklin’s version of the song topped the charts and earned her two Grammy Awards, cementing her status as the “Queen of Soul.” Today, “Respect” remains an iconic and timeless song that continues to inspire and empower listeners.
2. Amazing Grace (1972)
“Amazing Grace” is a traditional Christian hymn that was given new life when Aretha Franklin recorded it live in a church in 1972. Her rendition of the song, which showcases her gospel roots, is a powerful and emotional performance that has become one of her most beloved recordings. Franklin’s soulful voice imbues the song with a sense of hope, joy, and reverence that speaks to the hearts of listeners of all faiths. The recording of “Amazing Grace” has since become one of the best-selling gospel albums of all time and a testament to Franklin’s enduring legacy.
3. Rock Steady (1972)
“Rock Steady” is a funk and soul song that was released by Aretha Franklin in 1972. The song has a driving bassline and a catchy chorus that quickly became popular with audiences. Franklin’s powerhouse vocals are on full display, as she sings about the importance of finding a steady rhythm in life and love. The song’s groovy sound and infectious energy have made it a timeless classic, and it remains a favorite among fans of funk and soul music. “Rock Steady” showcases Franklin’s versatility as an artist and her ability to infuse even the most upbeat songs with soulful emotion.
4. You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman (1967)
“You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” is a soul ballad written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, and famously recorded by Aretha Franklin in 1967. Franklin’s soaring vocals on the song express the feelings of love and appreciation for a partner who makes her feel truly alive. The song’s memorable chorus and poignant lyrics have made it a classic, and it has been covered by countless artists over the years. “Natural Woman” showcases Franklin’s incredible range and ability to convey deep emotions through her music, cementing her status as one of the greatest singers of all time.
5. Think (1968)
“Think” is a soul and R&B song that was recorded by Aretha Franklin in 1968. The song’s upbeat tempo and catchy chorus quickly made it a fan favorite, and it became one of Franklin’s most iconic songs. The lyrics of “Think” are empowering, with Franklin urging listeners to think for themselves and not let others control their lives. The song’s message resonated with audiences then and now, and its infectious energy and memorable hook have made it a staple of popular culture. “Think” is a testament to Franklin’s ability to make music that is both fun and thought-provoking.
6. Spirit in the Dark (1970)
“Spirit in the Dark” is a funk and soul song that was recorded by Aretha Franklin in 1970. The song’s driving rhythm and gospel-inspired vocals make it one of Franklin’s most electrifying performances. The lyrics of “Spirit in the Dark” speak to the power of music to bring people together, regardless of their differences. The song’s infectious energy and uplifting message have made it a favorite among fans of funk and soul music. “Spirit in the Dark” is a testament to Franklin’s ability to infuse her music with soulful emotion and to connect with audiences on a deep level.
7. Day Dreaming (1972)
“Day Dreaming” is a soulful and romantic song recorded by Aretha Franklin in 1972. The song’s lush arrangement and Franklin’s mesmerizing vocals create a dreamy atmosphere that transports the listener to a world of love and longing. The lyrics of “Day Dreaming” describe a woman’s fantasies about her lover, and Franklin’s emotive delivery brings the story to life. The song’s slow groove and intimate feel have made it a favorite among fans of soul and R&B music. “Day Dreaming” showcases Franklin’s ability to create music that is both sensual and emotionally resonant.
8. Angel (1973)
“Angel” is a soulful ballad recorded by Aretha Franklin in 1973. The song’s gentle melody and heartfelt lyrics convey a sense of tenderness and vulnerability that is rare in Franklin’s music. The lyrics of “Angel” describe a woman’s devotion to her lover and the joy she finds in their relationship. Franklin’s emotive vocals and delicate piano accompaniment create a sense of intimacy that draws the listener in. The song’s emotional depth and restrained arrangement make it a standout in Franklin’s catalog and a testament to her ability to convey complex emotions through her music.
9. Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do) (1974)
“Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” is a soulful ballad recorded by Aretha Franklin in 1974. The song’s catchy melody and heart-wrenching lyrics describe a woman’s longing for her lover to return. The song’s lush instrumentation and Franklin’s powerful vocals create a sense of emotional intensity that is palpable. The song has been covered by many artists over the years, but Franklin’s version remains the most beloved. “Until You Come Back to Me” is a testament to Franklin’s ability to convey complex emotions with her music and her status as one of the greatest soul singers of all time.
10. What Y’All Came to Do (2007)
“What Y’All Came to Do” is a funk and soul-infused song recorded by Aretha Franklin in 2007. The song’s energetic rhythm and Franklin’s powerful vocals make it an instant party-starter. The lyrics of “What Y’All Came to Do” encourage listeners to let loose and have a good time, with Franklin’s sassy delivery adding a touch of humor to the song. The song’s modern production and classic sound make it a standout in Franklin’s later catalog. “What Y’All Came to Do” is a testament to Franklin’s enduring influence on popular music and her ability to make music that is both timeless and contemporary.