Aretha Franklin Turns 56

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, is celebrating her 56th birthday today.

Best known for her versions of such classic soul hits as "Respect," "(You Make

Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman" and "Rescue Me,"

Franklin's gospel-based singing has influenced such artists

as Chaka Khan, Martha Walsh, Whitney Houston, Mary J. Blige and Brandy. A

living legend, Franklin is still putting out relevant music and

continually uses her gospel training to astound audiences

around North America.

Born the daughter of famed minister C.L. Franklin in Memphis, Tenn.,

Franklin and her family made a name for themselves on the gospel scene very

early in her life, virtually becoming one of the most prominent families in

Detroit in the mid-'50s based on their powerful Sunday morning

performances. Franklin's earliest -- and some would argue most powerful --

recordings were of her singing gospel in her father's church as a

teen-ager, but she got her first taste of fame when she moved to New York in the

early '60s. She recorded a number of albums for Columbia

during this time but struggled to find the success that she would eventually

receive. After signing with Atlantic in 1966, Franklin began recording the songs

that would make her the legend she is today: "I

Never Loved A Man (the Way I Love You)," "Respect," "Baby I Love You,"

"Chain of Fools," "Think" and "Dr. Feelgood," among countless others. By

the end of the '60s, Franklin was widely identified as the undisputed Queen

of Soul. In spite of a turbulent personal life, Franklin remained a chart-topper

throughout the '70s, scoring hits with such songs as "Spanish Harlem,"

"Rock Steady," "Day Dreaming" and "Until You Come Back To Me (That's What

I'm Gonna Do)."

The late '70s found Franklin performing in dinner theaters and casinos

while recording sporadically. Her father was shot by burglars in his home

in the early '80s, and Franklin returned to Detroit to be by his side.

Franklin returned to the pop scene after her father passed away in 1984,

taking to the studio to record 1985's Who's Zoomin' Who?. A huge

comeback for her, it featured such guests as the Eurythmics,

Clarence Clemons and Carlos Santana and spawned the hit singles "Freeway

of Love" and "Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves." Franklin continued to record

and tour throughout the '80s and '90s, scoring occasional

hits such as the danceable "A Deeper Love" in 1994. In 1987, she became the

first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Franklin's

latest release, A Rose Is Still A Rose, is currently in stores and

features the production work of such artists as Sean "Puffy" Combs and

Jermaine Dupri.

Other birthdays: Elton John, 51; Nick Lowe, 49; Steve "Spiny" Norman

(Spandau Ballet), 38; and Jeff Healey, 32.