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Aretha Franklin — A timeline of her life and career

Aretha Franklin performs In concert at the Arie Crown Theatre in 1972. "I love Chicago," the singer says. | FILE PHOTO

Here’s a glance at some of the key moments in the life and career of Aretha Franklin, who passed away Thursday at the age of 76:

March 1942 — Born in Memphis, Tennessee. Her father, a prominent Baptist minister with gospel-music connections, would move the family briefly to Buffalo before settling in Detroit when she was 2. She would call the city home for most of her life and would always be closely associated with its massive musical legacy.


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1956 — Releases her first album, a gospel collection called “Songs of Faith,” recorded at her father’s church when she was 14.

1961 — Marries her manager Ted White. Their troubled eight-year union is believed to have inspired her performances on many songs.

February 1961 — Releases her first album for Columbia Records. She would have only minor hits in her six years with the label, which pushed her toward jazz and show tunes and away from her gospel roots.

November 1966 — Signs with Atlantic Records, where producer Jerry Wexler encourages her to embrace her classic soul-and-gospel sound. Several classic songs immediately followed, including “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “Chain of Fools.”

February 1967 — “Respect,” Ms. Franklin’s career-defining anthem, is recorded. The song would reach No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart, win her two Grammys and make her an international star. A month later, it would be the opening track on her breakthrough album, “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You.”

June 1972 — A live gospel album, “Amazing Grace,” is released amid a revival in spiritual music. It sold more than 2 million copies and is among her biggest hits.

January 1977 — Sings “God Bless America” at the inauguration of President Jimmy Carter.

June 1980 — The hit film comedy “The Blues Brothers” is released. In one of its most iconic scenes, supposedly set at a Maxwell Street delicatessen, Ms. Franklin sings “Think” and counters Elwood Blues’ entreaty “We’re on a mission from God” by scolding, “Don’t you blaspheme in here, don’t you blaspheme in here!“ The appearance signaled that the 1980s would bring a career revival.

July 1985 — “Freeway of Love” — on her “Who’s Zooming Who” album — becomes her first top 10 hit in more than a decade.

January 1987 — Becomes the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

April 1987 — “I Knew You Were Waiting (for Me),” a duet with George Michael, reaches No. 1 on the pop chart.

December 1994 — Becomes, at 52, the youngest person ever chosen for the Kennedy Center honors. In his tribute, President Bill Clinton said he and the first lady considered her among their favorite artists. “You could say that Hillary and I went to college and law school with Aretha because there was scarcely a day when we didn’t listen to one of her songs,” the president said.

September 1999 — Receives the National Medal of Arts and Humanities Award from President Clinton, who says she “brought sunshine to a rainy day and tenderness to a hardened heart.”

November 2005 — Presented by President George Bush with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civil award.

February 2008 — Wins her last Grammy Award — her 18th — for Best Gospel Performance for “Never Gonna Break My Faith” with Mary J. Blige. Also a Grammy Lifetime Achievement and Living Legend honoree.

January 2009 — Sings “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” at the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

October 2014 — Cover of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” reaches No. 47 on Billboard’s R&B chart. It’s her 100th charting single. She’s the first woman to reach that milestone.