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Happy Birthday to the Queen of Soul!

The Queen Of Soul, Aretha Franklin, celebrates her 71st birthday today. Aretha’s done two tours of duty with our labels, first with Columbia Records from 1961 to 1966, then a hitmaking era with Arista from 1980 to 1998. Today’s photo from the Sony Music library, taken in August 1961, captures a 19-year old Aretha in the studio with the man who signed her to Columbia, the legendary John Hammond.

Visit the official Aretha Franklin facebook page to wish her Happy Birthday!

Available Now! Knew You Were Waiting: The Best of Aretha Franklin 1980-1998

Today, Legacy Recordings celebrates the Queen of Soul’s 70th birthday with the release of KNEW YOU WERE WAITING: THE BEST OF ARETHA FRANKLIN 1980-1998.

This 15 song collection includes her biggest ‘Arista’ hits and also showcases her collaborations with her biggest fans including duets with Annie Lennox, Elton John, Whitney Houston, George Michael, George Benson, and guest performances by Keith Richards and Clarence Clemons.

KNEW YOU WERE WAITING: THE BEST OF ARETHA FRANKLIN 1980-1998 AVAILABLE NOW!

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QUEEN OF SOUL’S 70th BIRTHDAY CELEBRATED WITH 15-SONG COLLECTION SPOTLIGHTING FIRST 18 YEARS AS AN ARISTA ARTIST

KNEW YOU WERE WAITING:
THE BEST OF ARETHA FRANKLIN 1980-1998

QUEEN OF SOUL’S 70th BIRTHDAY CELEBRATED
WITH 15-SONG COLLECTION SPOTLIGHTING
FIRST 18 YEARS AS AN ARISTA ARTIST

FROM 1980’s “UNITED TOGETHER” TO 1998’S “ROSE IS STILL A ROSE” – INCLUDING #1 HITS “JUMP TO IT,” “GET IT RIGHT,” AND GRAMMY AWARD®-WINNING “FREEWAY OF LOVE” (WITH CLARENCE CLEMONS)

Star-powered collaborations with Keith Richards (“Jumpin’ Jack Flash”), the Eurythmics (“Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves”), George Benson (“Love All The Hurt Away”), Whitney Houston (“It Isn’t, It Wasn’t, It Ain’t Never Gonna Be”), George Michael (Grammy Award®-winning “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)”) – and more!

Previously unreleased mix of “Ever Changing Times” duet with Michael McDonald, written and produced by Burt Bacharach & Carol Bayer Sager

Available everywhere through Arista/Legacy starting January 31, 2012

Release coincides with observance of Black History Month in February, and Aretha’s return to Radio City Music Hall in New York for concerts on February 17 & 18th

The 70th birthday of Queen Of Soul Aretha Franklin, winner of 15 Grammy Awards® and the first female ever to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, will be celebrated on March 25, 2012. In honor of this momentous occasion, and also in advance of Black History Month in February, KNEW YOU WERE WAITING: THE BEST OF ARETHA FRANKLIN 1980-1998 will be available at all physical and digital retail outlets starting January 31, 2012, through Arista/Legacy, a division of SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT.

KNEW YOU WERE WAITING puts the spotlight on Aretha’s hitmaking years as an Arista Records artist, working closely with Arista founder and president Clive Davis. Davis served as executive producer of KNEW YOU WERE WAITING, which was compiled and produced by Leo Sacks, known for his work on last year’s definitive box set, Take A Look: Aretha Franklin Complete on Columbia, as well as scores of historic Soul and R&B projects for Legacy Recordings over the past two decades.

The new chronologically-sequenced, 15-song collection is the first major U.S. release to focus on the nearly two-decades string of hits that marked Aretha’s tenure at Arista. These range from her label debut, 1980’s #3 comeback R&B smash “United Together” (her first Top 5 hit in over three and a half years), to 1998’s iconic #5 R&B entry, “A Rose Is Still A Rose,” written, produced and arranged by Lauryn Hill of the Fugees.

“When Aretha Franklin signed to Arista Records in 1980,” writes Ernest Hardy in his liner notes to KNEW YOU WERE WAITING, “she had nothing left to prove… She had redefined the terms and reset the boundaries of both R&B and pop. She had sung jazz, gospel and blues, and erased the lines between them. She embodied the beauty that was Blackness while providing a soundtrack to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. She had worked with the very best songwriters, musicians, producers, arrangers and visionaries, and proved herself to be one of the best singers, songwriters, musicians and visionaries the music industry had ever seen.” Hardy is an award-winning cultural critic and essayist based in Los Angeles.

Underscoring Hardy’s point, Aretha’s Arista years were indeed marked by a steady flow of successful collaborations with contemporary music’s “very best songwriters, musicians, producers, arrangers and visionaries.” Virtually every track on KNEW YOU WERE WAITING supports this, starting with “United Together,” which was written and produced by Chuck Jackson (known for his career-making hits with Natalie Cole), and features Aretha’s beloved Sweet Inspirations on backing vocals (the ‘original’ lineup of Cissy Houston, Myrna Smith, Sylvia Shenwell and Estelle Brown). Likewise, “Love All The Hurt Away,” a duet with George Benson, was written by Sam Dees, and produced by the late Arif Mardin, the legendary producer who worked on so many of Aretha’s early breakthrough ’60s and ’70s Atlantic LPs.

Lauryn Hill, Arif Mardin and Chuck Jackson are just three of the important producers with whom Aretha worked at Arista. In addition to tracks produced by Luther Vandross (with arrangements by Marcus Miller), Narada Michael Walden, and Kenneth ‘Babyface’ Edmonds, KNEW YOU WERE WAITING also includes tracks produced by Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones and Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics.

In addition to the collaborations above, KNEW YOU WERE WAITING contains many more A-list collaborations that have become cornerstones in the Aretha canon:

  • “Freeway Of Love” (1985), featuring the late Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band on tenor saxophone, Randy Jackson on bass, and percussion by the Santana rhythm section, was a #1 R&B hit for 5 weeks, and went on to win the Grammy Award® for Best R&B Female Vocal;
  • “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” (1985), a Top 20 pop hit with the Eurythmics’ Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart (who produced), also features[Tom Petty] Heartbreakers band members Benmont Tench (organ), Stan Lynch (drums), and Mike Campbell (lead guitar);
  • “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” (1986), a Top 20 R&B and pop crossover smash duet with Keith Richards (who produced and played lead guitar, along with fellow Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood), was the title song from the movie Jumpin’ Jack Flash starring Whoopi Goldberg;
  • “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” (1986), a duet with George Michael, was another mega-hit, #1 pop for a fortnight and #5 R&B, and winner of the Grammy Award® for Best R&B Vocal Duo;
  • “Through The Storm” (1989), a Top 20 R&B and pop crossover hit vocal duet with Elton John, is one of two Albert Hammond/Diane Warren compositions (among many!) that were brought to Aretha by Clive Davis;
  • “It Isn’t, It Wasn’t, It Ain’t Never Gonna Be” (1989), a #5 R&B hit duet with Whitney Houston, is the other Hammond/Warren composition here, from the same album (Through The Storm); and
  • “Ever Changing Times” (1991), a Top 20 R&B hit vocal duet with Michael McDonald, written and produced by the hitmaking duo of Burt Bacharach and Carol Bayer Sager, in a mix previously unreleased on CD.

KNEW YOU WERE WAITING as Hardy concludes, “makes clear that Aretha Franklin was a vibrant, soulful, stretching, creative, forceful artist at Arista Records. She kept her fingers on the pulse of the world around her while sating old fans and scoring new ones. Her music at the label was about a place that exists behind and beyond mere words… No one expresses joy the way she does. No one conveys grief or loss with anywhere near her force or heartbreaking precision. She burns right through the words she sings, taking you straight to the core. That is her unmatched genius.”

  1. United Together
    Charts: #3 R&B, Hot 100 #56 | From Album: Aretha | Year: 1980
  2. Love All The Hurt Away (Duet with George Benson)
    Charts: #6 R&B, Hot 100 #46 | From Album: Love All The Hurt Away | Year: 1981
  3. Jump To It
    Charts: #1 R&B, Hot 100 #24 | From Album: Jump To It | Year: 1982
  4. Get It Right
    Charts: #1 R&B, Hot 100 #61| From Album: Get It Right | Year: 1983
  5. Freeway Of Love
    Charts: #1 R&B, Hot 100 #3 | From Album: Who’s Zoomin’ Who? | Year: 1985
  6. Who’s Zoomin’ Who
    Charts: #2 R&B, Hot 100 #7 | From Album: Who’s Zoomin’ Who? | Year: 1985
  7. Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves (Duet with the Eurythmics)
    Charts: #66 R&B, Hot 100 #18 | From Album: Who’s Zoomin’ Who? | Year: 1985
  8. Another Night
    Charts: #9 R&B, Hot 100 #22 | From Album: Who’s Zoomin’ Who? | Year: 1985
  9. Jumpin’ Jack Flash
    Charts: #20 R&B, Hot 100 #21 | From Album: Aretha | Year: 1986
  10. Jimmy Lee
    Charts: #2 R&B, Hot 100 #28 | From Album: Aretha | Year: 1986
  11. I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) (Duet with George Michael)
    Charts: #5 R&B, Hot 100 #1 | From Album: Aretha | Year: 1986
  12. Through The Storm (Duet with Elton John)
    Charts: #17 R&B, Hot 100 #16 | From Album: Through The Storm | Year: 1989
  13. It Isn’t, It Wasn’t, It Ain’t Never Gonna Be (Duet with Whitney Houston)
    Charts: #5 R&B, Hot 100 #41 | From Album: Through The Storm | Year: 1989
  14. Ever Changing Times (Duet with Michael McDonald)
    Charts: #19 R&B | From Album: What You See Is What You Sweat | Year: 1991
  15. Willing To Forgive
    Charts: #5 R&B, Hot 100 #26 | From Album: Greatest Hits (1980-1994) | Year: 1994
  16. A Rose Is Still A Rose
    Charts: #5 R&B, Hot 100 #26 | From Album: A Rose Is Still A Rose | Year: 1998

Columbia/Legacy Honors the 50th Anniversary of Aretha Franklin’s Pop Recording Career With a Deluxe Box Set

TAKE A LOOK: ARETHA FRANKLIN COMPLETE ON COLUMBIA CELEBRATES THE QUEEN OF SOUL’S GROUNDBREAKING WORKS FROM 1960-1965 IN A 12-DISC BOX SET

A golden anniversary collection containing original LPs with original album art, bonus tracks, mono mixes, alternate takes, studio conversations, newly-compiled sessions with legendary producers, and a DVD of rare televised performances from The Steve Allen Show

TAKE A LOOK features:
– Aretha (With The Ray Bryant Combo)
– (Her debut on Columbia, produced by John Hammond, released Feb. 27, 1961)
– The Electrifying Aretha Franklin (1962)
– The Tender, the Moving, the Swinging Aretha Franklin (1962)
– Laughing On the Outside (1963)
– Tiny Sparrow: The Bobby Scott Sessions (newly compiled from 1963)
– Unforgettable – A Tribute To Dinah Washington (1964)
– Take A Look: The Clyde Otis Sessions (newly compiled from 1964)
– Runnin’ Out Of Fools (1964)
– A Bit of Soul (unreleased compilation album, 1965)
– Yeah!!! In Person With Her Quartet (1965; includes a previously unreleased version of the album)
– The Queen In Waiting (newly compiled singles and rarities, 1965-1969)
– BONUS DVD: Aretha ’64! Live on The Steve Allen Show (5 songs with a full orchestra)

Release date: March 22, 2011, at both physical and digital retail outlets

Available for pre-order at www.arethafranklin.net

(Suggested Retail Price: $169.98)

Also available on March 22nd: ARETHA FRANKLIN: THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK, a single CD featuring highlights from the box set

The 50th anniversary of Aretha Franklin’s arrival on the popular music scene is set for a major celebration in 2011. Signed to Columbia Records by the legendary John Hammond in the spring of 1960 (soon after her 18th birthday), Aretha released her debut album, Aretha (With The Ray Bryant Combo), on February 27, 1961. Her coming of age at Columbia as a young artist in New York is one of the great stories in the annals of popular music, and set the stage for her ascendance as the Queen of Soul at Atlantic Records.

TAKE A LOOK: ARETHA FRANKLIN COMPLETE ON COLUMBIA marks the first time that Aretha’s entire Columbia output, including master takes, unissued performances, rare mono mixes and studio conversations, have been preserved in one deluxe 12-disc (11 CD + DVD) box set. The package is available for pre-order at www.arethafranklin.net in advance of its March 22, 2011, release at all physical and digital retail outlets through Columbia/Legacy, a division of SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT. The suggested retail price for the box is $169.98.

TAKE A LOOK also includes a comprehensive 64-page booklet with never-before-seen photos by Columbia staff photographer Don Hunstein; recollections by John Hammond, who signed the young gospel singer; a discography of Aretha’s Columbia LPs and singles; and an expansive essay “Bold Soul Ingénue” by Daphne A. Brooks, Professor of English and African American Studies at Princeton University.

Columbia/Legacy will also release ARETHA FRANKLIN: THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK on March 22nd. This single-CD collection of evergreens composed by Billy Strayhorn, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Johnny Mercer and Hank Williams, among others, is drawn entirely from the repertoire of TAKE A LOOK. Liner notes were written by Anthony Heilbut, author of The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times (Simon & Schuster, 1971).

The wide range of studio and live recordings that Aretha made for Columbia from the summer of 1960 to the fall of 1965 have been a source of controversy and heated critical debate for nearly a half-century. There is unanimous agreement, however, that Aretha’s years at Columbia were a necessary step in her artistic evolution.

Aretha, who turns 69 on March 25th, still commands the oft-cited R word (for R-E-S-P-E-C-T). Her voice remains one of the glories in American music. She has won 18 Grammys; was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987; has performed at two presidential inaugurations; and received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 – the nation’s highest honor. She was also recognized as “the greatest singer of the rock era,'” according to a Rolling Stone poll published in November 2008.

“The golden anniversary of Aretha’s introduction to the pop world from her gospel beginning at Chess Records is a singular moment in America’s musical, social and cultural heritage,” says Adam Block, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Legacy Recordings. “TAKE A LOOK is a long-overdue tribute to an American icon.”

TAKE A LOOK begins with expanded editions of Aretha’s seven original Columbia albums:
– Aretha (with the Ray Bryant Combo) (released February 27, 1961)
– The Electrifying Aretha Franklin (1962)
– The Tender, the Moving, the Swinging Aretha Franklin (1962)
– Laughing On The Outside (1963)
– Unforgettable – A Tribute To Dinah Washington (1964)
– Runnin’ Out Of Fools (1965)
– Yeah!!! In Person With Her Quartet (in two sequences: the original 1965 album recorded live in the studio with overdubbed applause, followed by a new previously unreleased version without the overdubbed ambience)

Two CDs reflect Aretha’s collaborations with the influential producers Bobby Scott and Clyde Otis — collaborations that were either shelved or issued as singles, but never on LP:
– Tiny Sparrow: The Bobby Scott Sessions (1963)
– Take A Look: The Clyde Otis Sessions (1964)

Two CDs are new compilations:
– A Bit of Soul (the full album as it was compiled in 1965, but never released)
– The Queen In Waiting (includes Aretha’s last seven Columbia recordings which were produced by Bob Johnston, who was noted for his work during this time with Bob Dylan; the disk also features new recordings of Aretha’s songs that Columbia “sweetened” after she left the label) “
– A bonus DVD, Aretha ’64! Live on The Steve Allen Show, features Aretha singing and playing piano on the legendary comedian’s television program, syndicated by Westinghouse TV, in the spring of 1964. The performances include “Lover Come Back to Me,” “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody,” “Won’t Be Long,” “Skylark,” and “Evil Gal Blues.”

The lavish 64-page booklet was designed by Michael Boland for The Boland Design Company. It contains:
– A 3,700-word essay by Daphne A. Brooks, distinguished professor of English and African American Studies at Princeton University; author of Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850-1910 (Duke University Press, 2006), Jeff Buckley’s Grace (Continuum 33 1/3 series, 2005) and the forthcoming Subterranean Blues: Black Women and Sound Subcultures (Harvard University Press)
– An excerpt from John Hammond’s 1977 autobiography, On Record, in which he reflects on the joy of discovering a singular talent, and the heartbreak of losing her to Atlantic Records
– Newly published photographs by Vernon L. Smith and the Columbia staff photographers Don Hunstein, Hank Parker and Sandy Speiser
– Complete discography of albums and singles

In every case, the CD jackets replicate the original LP jackets, including back cover liner notes. These include liner notes written by many of the most prominent music journalists of the day, including Frank Driggs (Aretha With the Ray Bryant Combo); Pete Welding (The Electrifying Aretha Franklin); Billy James (The Tender, The Moving, The Swinging Aretha Franklin); Leonard Feather (Unforgettable); and Dan Morgenstern (Yeah!!! In Person With Her Quartet).

After leaving Columbia in 1966, Aretha proceeded to earn 30 consecutive Top 10 hit singles over the next seven years, 15 of which went to #1 R&B. At the end of the ’60s and into the ’70s, she was a powerful figure in the Civil Rights and anti-war movements, Black power, and the rise of feminism.

Author David Ritz was Aretha’s collaborator on her candid autobiography, From These Roots (Villard Books, 2000). It remains the definitive account of her life and charts the course of modern R&B, alongside Ritz’s biographies of Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Etta James, Smokey Robinson, Jerry Wexler and others.

Of Aretha’s Columbia years, Ritz writes: “We see a teenager turn into a woman, and a woman blossom into an artist of astounding emotional depth.”

“Hearing Aretha on Columbia is like seeing a sunrise,” he continues. “The colors dazzle; the world expands; our hearts are excited by possibility, hope, a glimpse of glory. An Aretha love song, even when the story is sad, soars with a spirit that defies defeat. Whether forlorn ballads or broken-hearted blues, Aretha draws on the highest power of inspiration. The material may be secular, but the source remains spiritual. Her message and inspiration come from the same place: the mysterious, inexhaustible nature of love.”

TAKE A LOOK was compiled and produced by Grammy Award-nominated producer Leo Sacks, who has supervised more than 300 compilations, remixes and new recordings for Legacy which have been vital to preserving the works of such American masters as Earth, Wind & Fire, Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, The Isley Brothers, Luther Vandross and the producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff.

The package was mastered by Mark Wilder, who has won three Grammy Awards for his work preserving the legacies of Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Miles Davis.

“These stunning performances capture a gritty soul about to take flight,” Sacks says.

Aficionados, collectors and Aretha’s devotees will rejoice at the care and devotion that Legacy has accorded her rich catalog in the time-honored tradition of comparable deluxe commemorative box sets by Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Tony Bennett, Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley, among others. Historical accuracy, attention to detail and painstaking studio archival restoration has endeared Legacy to music lovers everywhere.

Aretha Franklin - Take A Look