Aretha Franklin's 9 Best Pop Songs

Aretha Franklin is known as the undisputed "Queen Of Soul." However, she is also one of the top pop artists of all time. Here is a distillation of the 9 greatest pop songs by Aretha Franklin. 

"I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)" - 1967

Aretha Franklin - I Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You
Aretha Franklin - I Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You. Courtesy Atlantic

Aretha Franklin had moderate success as a recording artist on the R&B singles chart dating back to her first top 10 hit "Today I Sing the Blues" in 1960. However, she had only briefly visited the top 40 on the US pop chart in 1961 with a version of "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody" that peaked at #37. The year 1967 changed all of that. "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)" produced by Jerry Wexler at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Alabama, became the first of a string of six consecutive top 10 pop smash hits.

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"Respect" - 1967

Aretha Franklin - Respect
Aretha Franklin - "Respect". Courtesy Atlantic

A #1 on both pop and R&B charts, "Respect" is arguably Aretha Franklin's signature song. The song was written and first recorded by Otis Redding in 1965. It was a #35 pop hit for him, and he performed it at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival in the summer of 1967. Jerry Wexler brought the song to Aretha Franklin's attention because he thought it had potential to be a major pop hit. The spelling out "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" and "sock it to me" in the background vocals were new additions to Aretha Franklin's version of the song. The result was a smash hit that found its way into the top 10 across the Atlantic in the UK as well.

"(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" - 1967

Aretha Franklin - (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
Aretha Franklin - "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman". Courtesy Atlantic

The legendary pop songwriting team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King wrote "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" with inspiration from producer Jerry Wexler. The song became a fourth top 10 pop hit for Aretha Franklin and gained fans among a new generation in 1983, when it was included on the multi-platinum soundtrack to the hit film The Big Chill.


"Think" - 1968

Aretha Franklin - Think
Aretha Franklin - "Think". Courtesy Atlantic

Released in late spring 1968, "Think" became Aretha Franklin's seventh top 10 pop hit in less than two years. Twelve years after its original success, Aretha Franklin performed a version of the song in the 1980 hit movie The Blues Brothers. The new version included backup vocals from Aretha Franklin's sisters Carolyn and Erma.

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"Spanish Harlem" - 1971

Aretha Franklin - Spanish Harlem
Aretha Franklin - "Spanish Harlem". Courtesy Atlantic

Aretha Franklin's success on the pop singles chart slowed in 1969 and 1970. She failed to reach the top 10 in either year. However, she came roaring back in 1971 with a dramatic, gospel-tinged version of Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water," and her version of Ben E. King's "Spanish Harlem" that went all the way to #2 on the pop singles chart and #1 R&B. Aretha Franklin's version was certified gold for sales over one million.


"Jump to It" - 1982

Aretha Franklin - Jump To It
Aretha Franklin - Jump To It. Courtesy Arista

The late 1970s were an unfortunate period in Aretha Franklin's recording career. Jerry Wexler left Atlantic in 1976, and her sales took a nosedive, including a failed foray into disco. By the end of the decade Aretha Franklin left Atlantic as well. In 1980 Clive Davis signed Aretha Franklin to his label, Arista, and she began her climb back to prominence. The single "Jump to It" is the title cut from Aretha Franklin's third Arista album, and it became her first top 40 pop hit in six years. The recording earned her a Grammy Award nomination and the album became her first gold certified release in six years.

"Freeway Of Love" - 1985

Aretha Franklin - Freeway Of Love
Aretha Franklin - "Freeway Of Love". Courtesy Arista

Three years later in 1985 Aretha Franklin's comeback was complete as she returned to the top 10 on the pop singles chart for the first time since 1973. "Freeway Of Love," produced by Narada Michael Walden, went all the way to #3. It includes a saxophone solo from Clarence Clemons of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. Aretha Franklin earned her 12th Grammy Award winning Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for the recording.

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"I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" - 1987

Aretha Franklin and George Michael - I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)
Aretha Franklin and George Michael - "I Knew Your Were Waiting (For Me)". Courtesy Arista

Clive Davis and his label, Arista, brought Aretha Franklin and hot young artist George Michael together for a recording of this song co-written by Simon Climie and Dennis Morgan. It was produced by Narada Michael Walden and turned into a #1 hit in both the US and the UK. It currently remains the last of Aretha Franklin's 17 top 10 pop hits.

"A Rose Is Still a Rose" - 1998

Aretha Franklin - A Rose Is Still A Rose
Aretha Franklin - "A Rose Is Still A Rose". Courtesy Arista

In 1998, A Rose Is Still a Rose was Aretha Franklin's first studio album in seven years. It became her first gold certified album in a dozen years. The album appeared in the wake of Aretha Franklin's celebrated performance of "Nessun Dorma" at the Grammy Awards filling in at the last minute for Luciano Pavarotti who had fallen sick. For the A Rose Is Still a Rose project she worked with young, rising producers and songwriters. The title song was written by Lauryn Hill specifically for Aretha Franklin. The recording incorporated elements of Edie Brickell's "What I Am." "A Rose Is Still A Rose" turned into a hit reaching #1 on the dance chart, #5 on the R&B singles chart, and #26 pop.

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