Aretha Franklin is a veritable musical icon. Crowned the Queen of Soul, the R&B singer had a whopping 112 Billboard hits, making her one of the most charted female artists in history. Thanks to her musical prowess and unparalleled talent, she became more than just a legendary artist. Indeed, she also played a central role in bringing women’s rights to the forefront of cultural conversation as early as the 1960s.

The Queen recorded several songs throughout her career that included some of the catchiest choruses of all time. But beyond being catchy, these songs contained important messages relating to social justice. Through her music, Franklin became a true champion of civil rights, laying the groundwork for the generation of activists to come.


“Respect,” Franklin’s most popular song, was a rendition of the Otis Redding original. Even though it was originally written by a man, Franklin’s “Respect” quickly became a feminist anthem. It hit the airwaves in the early 1960s when the women’s rights movement was in its infancy. The song empowered female fans worldwide, overshadowing Redding’s version by far. In fact, many listeners to this day don’t realize that Franklin’s rendition was a cover.