But while she will be forever remembered for songs like ‘I Say A Little Prayer’ and ‘Respect‘, her climb to fame came with extraordinary hurdles.
Born in 1942, Aretha was one of five children to parents Barbara Siggers Franklin, a singer and painist and Clarence LaVaughan Franklin, a preacher.
Aretha’s childhood was far from stable and her parents’ marriage was rocky to say the least.
Her father, who was a popular travelling preacher, was rumoured to be an unfaithful man and when Aretha was just six years old, her parents reportedly split amid increasing infidelity rumours.
According to David Ritz’s biography Respect: The Life Of Aretha Franklin, Clarence’s church services were host to “wild orgies”, which singer-songwriter Ray Charles even once attended.
A few years after Aretha’s parents split, her mother Barbara passed away when she was just 10 years old.
From then on, she was cared for primarily by her father with help from gospel singer Mahalia Jackson and her grandmother Rachel.
"She had a tough childhood," Ritz told People.
At 12 years old in 1955, Aretha fell pregnant and gave birth to her first son, who she named Clarence after her father.
"Aretha went back to school after having Clarence," Aretha's sister Erma said in Respect.
"She was an excellent student who did well in all her classes," she added.
But just two years later, Aretha fell pregnant again, giving birth to a son named Edward.
By 15, she was already the mother of two young boys.
"I still wanted to get out and hang out with my friends," Aretha told Ebony back in 1995.
"I wanted to be in two places at the same time. But my grandmother helped me a lot, and my sister and my cousin. They would babysit so I could get out occasionally."