Who Aretha Franklin Once Said ‘All Singers Aspired To Be’

Aretha Franklin will live on in history as the Queen of Soul — a woman whose voice inspired the masses, whose hit tunes led to weeping, foot-tapping, dancing, and shouting from the rooftops for decades on end. She was a powerhouse, an icon, and a cultural activist whose life work will succeed her for ages to come. 

Aretha Franklin
Soul singer Aretha Franklin sings in the Atlantic Records Studio | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

When thinking about musicians’ careers that up and comers yearn to emulate, it’s hard to think of someone more significant than Franklin. Yet, according to the “Respect” singer herself, there’s one artist like no other — one artist who she deemed worthy of all the other vocalists’ aspirations. 

Aretha Franklin on meeting Sam Cooke

Franklin met Sam Cooke — often referred to as The King of Soul — in the 1950s, as MentalFloss reports. They met at Franklin’s church, and Franklin explained her reaction to eyeing the “Cupid” singer. She shared: 

“I was sitting there waiting for the program to start after church, and I just happened to look back over my shoulder and I saw this group of people coming down the aisle…And, oh, my God, the man that was leading them—Sam and his brother L.C. These guys were really super sharp…And I had never seen anyone quite as attractive—not a male as attractive as Sam was. And so prior to the program my soul was kind of being stirred in another way.

Franklin | as qtd. by MentalFloss

Both Franklin and Cooke started out in Gospel, and Franklin felt that Cooke was a “singer’s singer —” someone who knew their voice was enough to carry them through. 

Aretha Franklin on Sam Cooke’s unparalleled talent

Franklin once explained that Cooke was the man to emulate — the man other singers could only hope to be. She said:

“All singers aspired to be Sam…Sam was what you call a singer’s singer … He didn’t do a lot of running around on the stage, and because he knew he didn’t have to. He had a voice, and he didn’t have to do anything but stand in one place and wipe you out.”

Franklin | as qtd. by MentalFloss

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Like Franklin, Cooke’s voice was enough. He didn’t need a gimmick. Didn’t need complex choreography. He just needed a microphone and an audience. In 1998, Cooke was inducted into the Hall of Fame for his hit song “You Send Me.” In 1999, he won the Grammy’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2000, he was recognized again for “A Change Is Gonna Come.” In 2004, the singer won the Grammy for Best Music Film for Legend.