Om Aretha Franklin
More than any other Soul performer (or such Jazz-Blues belters as Dinah Washington), Aretha Franklin brought impassioned Gospel singing to American popular music. Never as subdued as the subtler Sam Cooke, Franklin belts out profane R&B songs with enough sacred lung power to send the sound waves all the way up to the heavens. Franklin doesn't go over the top, though, always staying in the realm of good taste and sensitive delivery. As she proved during her greatest period, the late '60 Atlantic Recordings, Franklin blows the roof off your house with so much class that you don't want her to stop until she has reduced your love shack to a pile of splinters. Who else could outdo Otis Redding and turn "Respect" into an eternal anthem of racial and sexual pride that even middle-class white men embrace? Franklin's voice has weathered the decades very well but her arrangements and material are often beneath her. You can't go wrong with any of her recent Gospel recordings and 1998's A Rose is Still A Rose embraced hip-hop production with great success. Aretha Franklin remains a vital part of the modern music scene.