From the submissive surrender of her “Amazing Grace” to the womanly exclamations of “Respect” and other provocative hits, the late queen of soul Aretha Franklin is widely remembered for the Gospel music foundations she learned at her father’s Baptist church.
New Bethel Baptist Church (non-SBC), the Detroit congregation where Franklin grew up singing in the choir and performing solos, grieved her death Aug. 16 at age 76 of advanced pancreatic cancer.
Franklin’s popularity in African American gospel predates her first album at age 14, “Amazing Grace,” but “gospel music influenced her more than she influenced gospel music,” Southern Baptist pastor Marshal Ausberry told Baptist Press. Ausberry, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax, Va., leads the National African American Fellowship of nearly 4,000 Southern Baptist congregations.
“[She] was a child of the church. She had that authentic deep gospel sound that was rooted in her from the church,” Ausberry said. “She sang in the church choir up to the age of 9 and from the age of 9 to 18 she recorded gospel music. Then at around 18 she began to record secular music, but never forgetting her gospel roots.”
Mark Croston, who works with many African American congregations in his leadership post with LifeWay Christian Resources, believes Franklin’s “soulful and spiritual sounds” will likely remain an inspiration for ages.
“I have almost 100 songs by Aretha Franklin in my library,” said Croston, LifeWay’s national director of black and western church partnerships. “She blazed trails, crossed [cultures] and climbed the ladder of success, always remembering and drawing strength from the roots of her Christian faith, nurtured at the New Bethel Baptist Church.”
Franklin’s late father C.L. Franklin, who encouraged Aretha in her music, pastored New Bethel from 1946 until his retirement in 1979. Known as the man with the million-dollar voice, he first delivered in 1953 his famous sermon “The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest,” which was added to the National Registry of the U.S. Library of Congress in 2010. Aretha Franklin’s late mother Barbara Siggers Franklin also was a gospel singer.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press, Diana Chandler