If not for her dad, the Queen of Soul may never have inspired women everywhere.
At age 75, Aretha Franklin is more than just a legendary soul singer. She’s an icon, advocate, and one of the most celebrated (and important) voices in pop history. A feat the standout vocalist and pianist attributes to her father and Deep South upbringing.
Franklin’s musical resume is a long one, dating back about fifty years. After all, you don’t acquire the generous title of "Queen of Soul" without a plethora of tour-de-force vocal performances, hundreds of chart-topping hits, and countless awards. She was the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and she also previously held the record for being the most charted female artist ever on Billboard. Couple those honors with her 18 Grammy Awards and the Presidential Medal of Freedom award she received in 2005, and it’s not hard to envision just how the “Rock Steady” singer has earned considerable R-E-S-P-E-C-T from women all over the world.
But before Franklin became one of the greatest American singers and civil rights heroines, she was just daddy’s little girl.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1942, and raised in Detroit from age five, she was the daughter of Reverend C.L. Franklin, who served as pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church and also marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In fact, it was at her father’s behest during church service where Franklin began her journey to superstardom.
I was around 8 or 9—my dad asked me to sing that day," said Franklin, in an interview with TIME. "Had he not been a minister, he could very well have been a great singer. I really didn’t want to sing, but he heard the possibilities and continued to encourage me. And thank God he did.
Surrounded by gospel music for much of her life, Franklin has managed to effortlessly blend the sacred genre she grew up on with the rapture of R&B, the fusion of jazz, and the infectious sounds of pop throughout her career. Not to mention, her innate ability to pen emotionally-charged lyrics and bold anthems of sisterhood and empowerment is what has captivated female fans for nearly half a century.
"Music is motivating, inspiring, transporting," Franklin told TIME. "I think women immediately relate to the lyrics. We can all learn a little something from each other, so whatever they [women] can take and be inspired by, where my music is concerned, is great."
Although her father and humble beginnings growing up in the South were a heavy influence on Franklin’s music, she’s still the same champion of women's rights as she was during the cultural and political shift of the Sixties.
"I don’t think women need to do anything other than what they’re doing right now, and that’s moving forward," said Franklin. "Moving forward to the forefront and moving into the areas where men have largely held captive. We’re coming."
WATCH: Aretha Franklin’s interview is part of TIME Firsts.
We expect nothing less from the woman who not only demanded respect and power, but who also took the time to spell it out—letter by letter. Watch the rest of the videos here.
TIME FIRSTS Women Who Are Changing the World is available for pre-order at TIME Shop.