1. She Acted in Only One Movie in Her Career
The Queen of Soul meets the Soul Men! Franklin played Mrs. Murphy, the wife of Blue Brothers lead guitarist Matt "Guitar" Murphy, in 1980's Blues Brothers. In the movie, she sang a new, longer version of her 1968 hit, "Think."
"The Blues Brothers was something I enjoyed making tremendously," Franklin wrote in her autobiography, Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul. "It was my debut in film. The only thing I really didn’t like about it was the hours. I had to get up at seven o’clock in the morning to get ready to be on the set. But once you got there, and once you started rolling, then everything fell into place. I had a lot of fun with Belushi, and Dan Aykroyd—great guys—big sense of humor, and very, very professional and astute. So I had a good time. It makes everything so much easier when you’re having fun and you’re enjoying what you’re doing."
2. She Performed at the Inaugurations of Three Presidents
Franklin performed "God Bless America" at Jimmy Carter's night-before-the-inauguration celebration at the Kennedy Center in 1977. Sixteen years later, Franklin headlined a two-hour concert during Bill Clinton's inauguration festivities. She sang a goosebump-inducing version of "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Misérables. And in 2009, she sang “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” at Barack Obama's inauguration. While her vocals always took center stage, her Swarovski-crystal-studded hat quickly became the subject of countless memes.
3. She Taught Herself Piano Without Knowing How to Read Music
Franklin's mother was a singer and pianist, so it should come as no surprise that tickling the ivories came naturally to Franklin. "I play by ear,” she said.
4. She's Childhood Friends With Smokey Robinson
Growing up in Detroit, the "Tracks of My Tears" singer was best friends with Franklin's brother and the two quickly formed their own friendship. “This morning my longest friend in this world went home to be with our father. I will miss her so much but I know she’s at peace,” Robinson said about the singer's passing.
5. She Was the First Woman Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
In 1987, Franklin became the first female to join the ranks of Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, and Little Richard as an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. While she was not in attendance at the ceremony, her brother accepted the award on her behalf. "This is the greatest night of them all because Aretha has been written into history," he said.