Voice of Her Time
A Time For Change
Aretha's involvement with civil rights went back to her days as Reverend Franklin's daughter. Just as Reverend Franklin had exposed her to artists of many different kinds, he had also introduced her to people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Reverend Franklin supported Dr. King's philosophy of nonviolent protest against discrimination. The two men often made public appearances together. They were both preachers in the Baptist Church.
It was difficult for Aretha to speak out publicly for political causes once her career was in full swing. Singers were expected to entertain people, not voice their political opinions. Aretha supported Dr. King in any way she could. She often performed concerts that benefited the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), the organization that pursued Dr. King's objectives of equal rights for all people. If Reverend Franklin asked Aretha to support similar causes, she could be counted on to be there and do whatever she could. There were occasions when Aretha's political positions were made crystal clear. Though she was proud to perform for mixed-race audiences, or for people of color, there were occasions in the South where she was asked to perform before white-only audiences. Even after the passage of civil rights legislation during the 1960s, many areas of the American South remained segregated. Aretha refused to perform at any venue that was segregated.
Did You Know?
Aretha has recorded duets with Whitney Houston, Annie Lennox, George Michael, and Elton John. Her willingness to work with people in other genres of music has brought her much success. Each of her duets with these artists has made it onto the charts!