Five of Aretha Franklin's Most Memorable Performances

1:30 PM 8/16/2018

by Jillian Forstadt

The Queen of Soul, who dazzled audiences since the 1950s, died at age 76 on Thursday.

Aretha Franklin's professional singing career spanned more than six decades, starting when she was 14.

The Queen of Soul died at 76 in her hometown of Detroit on Thursday morning after battling advanced pancreatic cancer. Despite having been ill since 2010, Franklin continued to sing. She put out her 40th album in 2011, and last performed at a gala for the Elton John Aids Foundation on Nov. 7, 2017.

Franklin, named the Greatest Singer of All Time by Rolling Stone, brought many (including Barack Obama) to tears during performances over of the years. From her earliest televised outings to the few times she took to the stage amid health complications in the last few years, Franklin stunned audiences with her amazing range and soulful songs. 

Look back on some of her most memorable performances, presented in chronological order, below.

  • 'The Cliff Richard Show' (1970) - "I Say a Little Prayer"

    Franklin put her own spin on the song, first released by Dionne Warwick a year earlier, when she included a cover on her 1968 album Aretha Now. She sang "I Say a Little Prayer" in a televised performance two years later. It has since become one of her most famous songs, with over 99 million plays on Spotify. 

  • 'The Blues Brothers' (1980) - "Think"

    While Franklin never pursued an acting career, she proved to be a scene stealer in the 1980 cult comedy, The Blues Brothers. In the film and its 1998 sequel, Blues Brothers 2000, Franklin played Mrs. Murphy, the wife of Blue Brothers guitarist Matt Murphy.

    In the scene below, Franklin's Mrs. Murphy bursts into a high-energy rendition of "Think" from her 1968 album Aretha Now, warning her husband of the consequences if he leaves her to join the band. He leaves in the end, but not before Franklin and three backup singers parade around the small diner.

  • Obama Inauguration (2009) - "My Country, 'Tis of Thee"

    Franklin braved the January cold to sing this patriotic tune at President Obama's first inauguration. Franklin donned a memorable gray hat with a jeweled bow and gloves during the performance.

    The soul great performed at national events several times throughout Obama's two terms, both headlining an energetic celebration of gospel music at the White House and performing "America, the Beautiful" at a farewell ceremony for departing Attorney General Eric Holder in April 2015.

  • MLK Memorial Dedication (2011) - "Precious Lord, Take My Hand"

    Franklin, also a civil rights activist, performed the hymn "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" at the dedication ceremony for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Washington, D.C., memorial in 2011. Franklin worked closely with King in the 1960s and said he frequently requested the song, which appeared on her debut studio album, Songs of Faith.

    The singer also performed the hymn at gospel singer Mahalia Jackson's funeral in 1972, and at her own father's funeral in 1984.

  • Kennedy Center Honors (2015) - "(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman"

    In 2015, Franklin made an appearance at the annual Kennedy Center Honors, where she helped recognize singer-songwriter Carole King, who penned "(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman" with Gerry Goffin in 1967.

    Franklin's rendition of her 1968 hit had Michelle Obama singing along and Barack Obama wiping tears from his eyes.

    The powerful performance earned Franklin a standing ovation.