What made Aretha Franklin’s voice so special? A professional soprano explains

13 March 2019, 11:15

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

As stars lined up to celebrate the Queen of Soul during her tribute concert last weekend, we asked soprano Catherine Bott to explain what made Aretha Franklin’s voice so moving to listen to.

On 16 August 2018, legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin passed away aged 76. Her voice, which radiated both joy and pain, and demanded our R-E-S-P-E-C-T, was one of a kind.

Last weekend, stars including Jennifer Hudson, Céline Dion, Kelly Clarkson, Alicia Keys, SZA, Patti LaBelle and Carrie Underwood all came together and performed in a tribute concert, to celebrate her life and extraordinary voice.

See more: Did you know Aretha Franklin once stepped in for Pavarotti… and sang Nessun Dorma?

From Aretha's incredible range – she could sing from G2 to E6, well over three octaves – to her no-nonsense attitude, it’s impossible not to be moved by her vocals.

“My absolute favourite number from the Queen of Soul is also one of my favourite moments in the film The Blues Brothers when she makes it very clear who’s boss,” says Catherine Bott.

“She sings ‘You better think, think what you’re trying to do to me’, prodding compliance from the hapless men around her with a jabbing index finger and that no-nonsense voice.”

It’s hard to talk about Aretha without mentioning ‘Respect’, a song originally written by Otis Redding about a guy insisting on respect when he comes home from work, which Aretha turned into an unapologetic anthem for women.

She changed the lyrics to suit her message of empowerment, spelled the word out in the chorus and added the ‘sock it to me’ refrain with her sisters Carolyn and Erma backing her up.

“I’m not sure whether it would have been much fun to share a stage with her,” Catherine says, “But I have to agree with Otis Redding that she turned it into an anthem for an age. He said: ‘this girl, she just took this song’.”