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Our 6 favorite Aretha Franklin hymns and gospel tunes


The "Queen of Soul" has passed away at 76.

The gospel and soul music scenes have lost one of their greatest performers with the passing of Aretha Franklin. The undisputed “Queen of Soul” was a consummate professional with one of the greatest and most identifiable voices in the history of recorded music. During the 60 years she was active, Franklin was a paramount influence on her genre and one of the leading performers who brought gospel music into the mainstream.

With a Baptist minister as a father and a well rounded musician for a mother, it’s no wonder Franklin gravitated to the soulful sounds which developed in church, where she learned to sing. She recorded her first album, Songs of Faith, when she was just 14 years old and went on to make 41 more studio albums and six live albums. Over her carreer, Aretha won 17 Grammy Awards and she was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In celebration of the long life and storied career of this monumental artist we’ve collected some of her best hymns and gospel tunes to share.

Amazing Grace

When Pope Francis came to Philadelphia for the 2015 Festival of Families Aretha gave this performance of “Amazing Grace”. She said in a press release:

“I met His Holiness backstage. We shook hands and I curtsied,” Franklin said in the statement circulated by her publicist. “I gave him a boxed set of sermons by my father, theologian Rev. C.L. Franklin. He asked me to pray for him as he had asked others to pray for him during his appearances.”

Climbing Higher Mountains

Aretha released this traditional hymn on the second disc of her 1972 album, Amazing Grace. The entire album was recorded in New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. The work won the 1973 Grammy Award for Best Soul Gospel Performance.

Lean on Me

Not to be confused with Bill Withers’ standard by the same name. Aretha’s has a similar chord progression and lyrically it explores the same themes of unconditional friendship, but Aretha’s melody is so much more soulful. The pipes she displays on the second half are just phenomenal.

Mary Don’t You Weep

The first track from Amazing Grace. How would you have liked to be in the room when this recording was happening? It sounds like everyone involved was having a blast.

A Change is Gonna Come

Originally written by her old friend Sam Cooke, to whome she refers throughout the song, the tune speaks to a deep longing of the soul. Aretha’s treatment of this classic soul song may be our favorite version.

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

This high energy rendition of the standard hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” was on the B-side of the first disc of Amazing Grace. Yet another great example of the melismatic style which every soul singer has attempted to imitate.

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