Aretha Franklin
* March 25, 1942 † August 16, 2018
United States
Solo Artist
The voice is instantly recognizable for there is truly no other voice like it. A national treasure, a voice that has brought joy to countless millions the world over through a distinguished career filled with accomplishment and achievement.

Yes, she is the undisputed Queen of Soul and one listen to Aretha Franklin's scintillating 2003 Arista album SO DAMN HAPPY leaves no doubt why her reign continues through ever-changing musical times. For Aretha's artistry is solid and if there's a secret to her enduring longevity it can be found in the new songs on this, her overall twelfth Arista album. For, to her latest album, her first new CD since 1998's best-selling gold set "A Rose Is Still A Rose," Queen Aretha brings timeless wisdom and an innate understanding of life, love, celebration and undaunting faith. When you get right down to it, her appeal is - as it has always been - her ability to bring realness to each and every song she sings. Whether or not she has personally experienced the situations expressed in the material she chooses, Aretha can relate and for sure, so can the record buyers who have been enjoying the majesty of her talent time after time.

"On this album, I'm just telling it like it is and keeping it real," Aretha says. In keeping with her commitment to always make music that is relevant and highly contemporary, SO DAMN HAPPY is an example of Aretha surrounding herself with today's hitmakers such as Troy Taylor (whose credits include Whitney Houston and Kenny Lattimore among others), superproducers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and Ron Lawrence (Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans) among others. Aretha herself produced three tracks; while superstar Mary J, Blige did vocal arrangements and background vocals for two songs she co-wrote for the album. Says Antonio "L.A." Reid, President and CEO of Arista Records and executive producer of the album, "Working with an artist of Aretha's magnitude is a real honor, given the impact she has made on the world of music. Aretha consistently demonstrates her ability to stay contemporary. Along with the entire staff at Arista, I am truly excited about presenting this new album to not only Aretha's many longtime fans but the generation of record buyers who are discovering just why she is the one and only Queen Of Soul!"

The collection of songs Aretha personally chose for this album contain messages of hope ("Holdin' On"), empowerment ("Good News") and happiness ("Wonderful," "So Damn Happy"). Then, of course, there are those tunes that address the ups and downs of love. The album's first hit single, the Taylor-produced "The Only Thing Missin'" hearkens back to the work Aretha did with the late Curtis Mayfield in the '70s with its summertime feel-good groove: "I absolutely love the song! The only thing missin' for me was Mr. Right...and my being out of the studio for far too long. I am thrilled to be back!" Aretha smiles.

With a message particularly for the "ladies and women all over the world," the song "Everybody's Somebody's Fool" - Aretha's first work with Jam & Lewis and Flyte Tyme's Jimmy Wright - addresses the everyday ins and outs, down-to-earth realities of relationships and it's the kind of song which longtime Franklin fans will find particularly appealing. "Ain't No Way," produced by Barry J. Eastmond (known for his work with Anita Baker, Freddie Jackson and others) and songwriter Gordon Chambers (who also co-wrote "The Only Thing Missin') is very much a personal Franklin statement on her own stance in dealing with matters of the heart; while the classic pop-flavored ballad "Falling Out Of Love," produced and co-written by the legendary Burt Bacharach, deals with the end of a love affair.

In contrast - as only a Queen of Soul can do, Aretha exuberantly brings a positive vibe to the afore-mentioned "Wonderful," produced by Ron "Amen-Ra" Lawrence and to her own "So Damn Happy," one of three songs Aretha produced for the album. Speaking about CD's title cut, Queen Aretha reflects, "You know, it's funny how even when a relationship is not working, you can think back to certain moments and remembering those times can still make you so damn happy." Likewise, the stately ballad "You Are My Joy" (another Franklin production) is the celebration of the union of a man and woman: "I really love this song. To me, it's classic, but then so were we...meaning the two people I'm describing in the song..." Aretha injects her well-known sense of wit and humor into the upbeat standout "No Matter What," also produced by Troy Taylor, one of the two songs superstar Mary J. Blige contributed to the album: "Working with Mary J. is a breeze. She is very earthy writer and always zeros in to exactly the right place in terms of the dynamics of a relationship. Mary J. and Troy Taylor are super writers together and I really enjoy working with both of them."

While the subject of love is integral to SO DAMN HAPPY, there are two songs in particular that provide uplifting expressions of Aretha's approach to life. The infectious old school-flavored "Holdin' On" is another Taylor production, also co-written by Blige. "I almost didn't record this song but decided that I would, and I'm so damn happy that I did! "Good News" (produced by Norman West of the popular '70s R&B group The Soul Children) is a reminder that with all the platinum and gold albums, Grammy Awards and countless international accolades, Aretha's roots have and always will be in the Church: "This song speaks of the good news and that is His birth, His life, and His resurrection. The good news of course, is the gospel as well."

SO DAMN HAPPY is the latest musical triumph for a woman whose first name alone is guaranteed to evoke praise and admiration the world over. Aretha's musical legacy is quite simply, peerless. From her teen years as the daughter of the nationally revered Reverend C.L. Franklin, touring the highways and byways of the gospel circuit thrilling audiences with her God-given gift to her early days as a recording artist with Columbia Records - where she was a remarkable interpreter of a whole range of musical styles from jazz, pop, R&B, Broadway and standards ¿ the Memphis-born, Detroit-raised icon has always added her own unique stamp to a unparalleled diversity of music.

Signed to Atlantic Records, Aretha's artistry came to international attention via a non-stop run of now-classic hits. "Respect," "Think," "A Natural Woman," "Chain Of Fools," "Until You Come Back To Me" and so many other songs helped shape the music of a generation along with repertoire highlights like her own "Dr. Feelgood (Love Is A Serious Business)," "You Send Me," "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" and "I Say A Little Prayer."

In 1980, Aretha began her association with Arista and the hits continued: "Freeway Of Love," "Who's Zoomin' Who," "Jump To It" (produced by musical pal and friend Luther Vandross), "I Knew You Were Waiting For Me," (a duet with George Michael) and "Willing To Forgive" were just some of the tracks on the 1994 platinum album, "Greatest Hits (1990-1994)." Always attuned to current music and yet always maintaining her own musical integrity, Aretha worked with '90s hitmaker Lauryn Hill on her best-selling "A Rose Is Still A Rose" set alongside hit producers P. Diddy, Dallas Austin, Jermaine Dupri, Daryl Simmons and others; the result ¿ which included her own "The Woman" hailed as "arguably her most soulful performance in years' by All Music Guide - was one of Aretha's best-selling albums, spurred by the response to the title cut, a gold-selling Top 5 R&B and Top 30 pop single.

As her last Arista album demonstrated, Aretha Franklin's music cuts across generations, appealing to longtime fans as well as young admirers who are discovering why Aretha is so frequently mentioned as a major musical influence by such artists as Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott, Missy Elliott, Ashanti, Faith Evans, Kelly Price and Hill. Her classic hits have been featured in countless movies and television shows and in concert, Aretha's powerhouse performances continue to elicit rave reviews and sold-out shows.

Now the Queen Of Soul is back with a new album that promises to keep her love affair with audiences of all ages as vibrant as ever. Music for today imbued with that legendary Franklin magic, SO DAMN HAPPY ensures Aretha's status as a timeless hitmaker, always in stride and right on time. "I wish we could have done ten more songs!" Aretha laughs. "We left so many dynamite songs behind because you can only do so many minutes on one album. However, the good news get to record again!" As her latest album shows, Aretha just gets better with time - and yes, that soulful reign continues, on and on...
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