The Life of Aretha Franklin
By David Ritz
(Little, Brown and Company, Hardcover, 9780316196833, 528pp.)
Publication Date: October 28, 2014
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The definitive biography of the Queen of Soul from acclaimed music writer David Ritz.
Aretha Franklin began life as the golden daughter of a progressive and promiscuous Baptist preacher. Raised without her mother, she was a gospel prodigy who gave birth to two sons in her teens and left them and her native Detroit for New York, where she struggled to find her true voice. It was not until 1967, when a white Jewish producer insisted she return to her gospel-soul roots, that fame and fortune finally came via "Respect" and a rapidfire string of hits. She has evolved ever since, amidst personal tragedy, surprise Grammy performances, and career reinventions.
Again and again, Aretha stubbornly finds a way to triumph over troubles, even as they continue to build. Her hold on the crown is tenacious, and in RESPECT, David Ritz gives us the definitive life of one of the greatest talents in all American culture.
David Ritz is the only four-time winner of the Gleason Music Book Award and won the 2013 ASCAP Timothy White award for outstanding musical biography for his book with Buddy Guy. He also cowrote, with Marvin Gaye, the song "Sexual Healing" and lives in Los Angeles with his wife.
"It's a comprehensive, illuminating and unfailingly solicitous account of a life that, whatever its tribulations, conflicts and complications, has always somehow been redeemed by Franklin's musical calling.... [Ritz has] an exceptional capacity to listen with care and sympathy to what people tell him, and then render their words vividly and compassionately."—Gene Seymour, USA Today
"A remarkably complex portrait of [Aretha Franklin's] music and her tumultuous life."—Rolling Stone
"You'll be in the nimble hands of a pro if you read Respect."—Janet Maslin, New York Times
"An honest and genuinely respectful portrait of a true diva by a writer who feels the power of her art."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"David Ritz's Respect judiciously captures the conflicted life of the legendary Queen of Soul."—Lisa Shea, Elle
"Ritz's intimate and elegant voice steps from behind the veil of the ghostwriter to tell a tale of genius, dysfunction and blind ambition, describing a world of triumph and tragedy of near mythic proportions. A great read and a really heroic work of biography -- honest, loving, no holds barred."—Ben Sidran, author of There Was a Fire
"The monumental biography we've been waiting for of Lady Soul, our greatest soul singer, from the also very great David Ritz, confidante to an entire generation of soul stars -- Ray, Smokey, B.B., Etta, Marvin, etcetera. He is The Man. This is The Book."—Joel Selvin, author of Here Comes the Night: The Dark Soul of Bert Berns and the Dirty Business of Rhythm and Blues
"A fascinating, delicious depiction of the life of a woman who'd rather not be depicted.... A book so juicy, it is dripping."—Rich Juzwiak, Gawker
"This far surpasses David Ritz's landmark study of Marvin Gaye. People will be reading Respect generations from now to understand our musical culture. Ritz deserves a lifetime achievement award for "Most Soul Full Account of America's Music."—Charles Keil, ethnomusicologist, author of Urban Blues
"A candid, far less sanitized look at the enormously gifted but demanding diva."—People
"Respect will stand as one of Ritz's greatest and most unusual achievements: a rich, definitive portrait set in motion by a bit of unfinished business."—Nate Chinen, New York Times
"Like the great gospel choirs, Respect brings together a community of powerful voices in a tribute to the powers of music, the spirit, and, above all, Lady Soul. Crowning his life's work, David Ritz has achieved the near-impossible, taking us behind the many masks that Aretha has worn through one of the most complex musical lives of the 20th and 21st centuries. Everyone who loves gospel and soul has experienced moments when the only response is one of profound gratitude. When I finished Respect, that's what I felt. A towering achievement."—Craig Werner, author of Higher Ground: Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield and the Rise & Fall of American Soul
"Revealing."—Natalie Beach, O, The Oprah Magazine's "10 Titles to Pick Up Now"
"Only someone who had the complete confidence and trust of Aretha's family and the elite of the Gospel and Rhythm and Blues communities could have gotten this story. An intimate and thorough account of this phenomenal woman's talent and life as only David Ritz could capture."—Tommy LiPuma, Grammy-winning producer
"Drawing on previous work and interviews with those close to Franklin, Ritz offers a portrait of a woman for whom faith and respect are essential."—Vanessa Bush, Booklist (starred review)
"A full and frank account of the Queen of Soul's career.... Ultimately a poignant and disappointing tale of a singer who never reached the pinnacle for which she aimed."—Henry L. Carrigan Jr., BookPage
"The most comprehensive and accurate account of Franklin yet published."—Christopher Loudon, Maclean's Magazine
"Thorough research and an intimate personal story make this book the definitive biography of a popular American diva."—The Fresno Bee
"Ritz's book ultimately succeeds because it holistically presents a balanced psychological portrait of the great legend."—Joey DiGuglielmo, Washington Blade
RESPECT "is commendable for its depth... as well as Ritz's highly readable, captivating style. It's a compelling record of the life of a musical titan and a fascinating picture of the process of recording some of the seminal popular music of our time.... The king of cowriters provides the queen of soul with the definitive biography, along with a healthy dose of reverence, reflection and, above all, R.E.S.P.E.C.T."—Bill Baars, Library Journal (starred review)
"In RESPECT, his unauthorized portrait of Aretha Franklin, long-time pop music biographer David Ritz pulls back the swirling curtains the Queen of Soul has long drawn between herself and her fans, revealing the woman whose often troubled life has given all-too-human substance to her heartbreakingly passionate music."—Michael Lydon, author of Boogie Lightning
"[Ritz's] research -- based on interviews with Franklin's siblings and departed legends from Ahmet Ertegun to Vandross -- is solid, and he vividly expresses what made her voice and albums so monumental in the sixties."—David Browne, Rolling Stone
"The most revealing and well-rounded portrait of the Queen ever written."—Jim Farber, New York Daily News
The "compelling and much-needed redo on the career and complicated life of Aretha Franklin.... An unflinching portrait of a musical genius who seems lost whenever she's not in front of a microphone or piano."—Thor Christensen, Dallas Morning News
"Offers an abundance of information... Ritz also sheds light on Aretha's personal life."—Elsa Dixler, New York Times Book Review
"Fascinating and unflinching."—John Lyttle, Winnipeg Free Press
"Respect is a major biography, and unauthorized in the extreme. Ritz has done well to recount the life as a whole."—Robert Christgau, Barnes & Noble Review
"Ritz chronicles Franklin's ups and downs with honesty and sympathy: her musical successes, her difficult relationships, her career reinventions and her life's ambitions. Through it all, Ritz celebrates how Franklin manages to triumph over the challenges in her life and remains one of the most influential musicians of recent history."—Katherine Handcock, A Mighty Girl
"A triumph.... I highly recommend this book."—Larry Buford, eurweb.com
"A dramatic and definitive study of the Queen."—Marilyn Dahl, Broadway World's Bookworks
"A beautiful biography.... The poetic descriptions of Aretha's musical genius make it impossible to resist pulling out old records or watching performances on YouTube."—Sheri Doyle, Waterloo Region Record