Aretha Louise Franklin (born March 25, 1942) is an American R&B and soul singer, songwriter, and pianist. She is known to her fans as “The Queen of Soul”. She is renowned for her soul recordings but is also adept at jazz, rock, blues, pop and gospel. She is widely acclaimed for her passionate vocal style and powerful vocal range. In 2008, the American music magazine Rolling Stone ranked Franklin #1 on its list of The Greatest Singers of All Time.
Franklin is one of the most honored artists in Grammy Award history, with 21 wins to date, including the Living Legend Grammy and the Lifetime Achievement Grammy. She has scored a total of 20 #1 singles on the Billboard R&B Singles Chart, two of which also became #1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100: “Respect” (1967) and “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” (1987), a duet with George Michael. Since 1961, Franklin has scored a total of 45 “Top 40” hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
“Spanish Harlem” is a song released by Ben E. King in 1961 on Atco Records, written by Jerry Leiber and Phil Spector. The song was King’s first hit away from The Drifters, a group he had led for several years. With Spanish guitar, Marimba, and drum-beats, the song climbed the Billboard charts, eventually peaking at #15 at R&B and #10 at Pop. It was later ranked #349 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Aretha Franklin released a cover version of the song in the summer of 1971 which outperformed the original on the charts, charting #1 R&B for three weeks and #2 Pop for two weeks and earning a gold single for sales of over one million. Dr. John played keyboards on Franklin’s version. This version, more intense than the original, hit #6 on Billboard’s Easy Listening chart. Franklin also changed the lyric slightly, from “A red rose up in Spanish Harlem” to “The rose is black in Spanish Harlem.”