Special Report

Aretha Franklin's 50 Greatest Hits

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When a panel of 179 music experts chose “The Greatest Singers of All Time” for Rolling Stone in 2008, Aretha Franklin — who died of pancreatic cancer on August 16 at the age of 76 — took first place, ahead of greats like Ray Charles and Elvis Presley. It was but one of the many honors this musical force of nature earned in the course of her 60-plus-year career.

In 1987, she was the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. She was nominated for 44 Grammys and won 18 of them, including the 1994 Lifetime Achievement Award. She had 15 gold records. Between 1961 and 1998, 47 of her songs reached No. 50 or higher on the Billboard charts — including nine in the top five. In 2005, President George W. Bush bestowed on her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Born in Memphis in 1942, Franklin was brought up in Detroit, where her father, Rev. C. L. Franklin, was a famed Baptist preacher and church singer known for his “million-dollar voice.” She started singing too and recorded a gospel album, “Songs of Faith,” in her father’s church when she was only 14. Four years later, she signed with Columbia Records and released her first secular single, “Today I Sing the Blues.” It reached No. 10 on the Billboard R&B charts.

Franklin scored two more R&B hits for the label and released, among other records, an album backed by Ray Bryant’s jazz trio and a tribute to bluesy singer Dinah Washington, who’d been the most popular black female singer of the 1950s. It wasn’t until Franklin moved to Atlantic Records in 1966, though, that she became a star.

Over the next dozen years, she gave us such unforgettable classics as “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You),” “Do Right Woman — Do Right Man,” “Respect” (which overshadowed even Otis Redding’s original version), “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools,” and “Think,” as well as definitive cover versions of such songs as “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “The Weight,” “Tracks of My Tears,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Son of a Preacher Man,” “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” and “Spanish Harlem.”

The range of Franklin’s musical interests and abilities was broad. She brought her unmistakable voice to collaborations with everyone from Whitney Houston, James Brown, the Four Tops, and Smokey Robinson to George Michael (with whom she recorded the No. 1 single “I Knew You Were Waiting for Me”), Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Elton John, and the Eurythmics.

Eulogizing Franklin for Rolling Stone, Mary J. Blige — with whom Franklin also recorded — called her “a gift from God,” and proposed that “She is the reason why women want to sing.” Franklin performed “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” at President Barack Obama’s 2009 Inauguration, and on the day of her death, the Obamas issued a joint statement that said, in part, “Through her compositions and unmatched musicianship, Aretha helped define the American experience,” adding “the gift of her music remains to inspire us all.”

This is a good time to put on your favorite Aretha Franklin song and pump up the volume — because, as the Obamas also wisely noted, sometimes her music helps us “just forget about everything else and dance.”

24/7 Wall St. reviewed all of Aretha Franklin’s songs that have charted on the Billboard Hot 100 list. We indexed these singles based on the total number of weeks these songs were on the Billboard 100, the highest position these songs reached, as well as the total number of plays by Spotify users.

Click here to see Aretha Franklin’s 50 greatest hits.

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Records

50. “Take A Look”
> Chart position: peaked at #56
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 8
> Spotify plays: 37,762
> Released: 1967

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Source: Courtesy of Arista Records

49. “United Together”
> Chart position: peaked at #56
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 8
> Spotify plays: 96,562
> Released: 1981

Source: Courtesy of Tamla Records

48. “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing”
> Chart position: peaked at #47
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 7
> Spotify plays: 548,115
> Released: 1974

Source: Courtesy of Arista Records

47. “It Isn’t, It Wasn’t, It Ain’t Never Gonna Be”
> Chart position: peaked at #41
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: N/A
> Spotify plays: 935,099
> Released: 1989

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Source: Courtesy of Columbia Records

46. “Runnin’ Out Of Fools”
> Chart position: peaked at #57
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 10
> Spotify plays: 137,948
> Released: 1964

Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

45. “Border Song (Holy Moses)/You And Me”
> Chart position: peaked at #37
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 7
> Spotify plays: 642,254
> Released: 1970

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Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

44. “My Song”
> Chart position: peaked at #31
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 7
> Spotify plays: 600,118
> Released: 1969

Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

43. “Mr. D.J. (5 For The D.J.)”
> Chart position: peaked at #53
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 5
> Spotify plays: N/A
> Released: 1975

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Records

42. “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody”
> Chart position: peaked at #37
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 9
> Spotify plays: 2,760,099
> Released: 1961

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Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

41. “I Can’t See Myself Leaving You”
> Chart position: peaked at #28
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 8
> Spotify plays: 418,204
> Released: 1969

Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

40. “All The King’s Horses”
> Chart position: peaked at #26
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 8
> Spotify plays: 216,060
> Released: 1972

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Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

39. “Master Of Eyes (The Deepness Of Your Eyes)”
> Chart position: peaked at #33
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 10
> Spotify plays: 228,453
> Released: 1973

Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

38. “The Weight”
> Chart position: peaked at #19
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 7
> Spotify plays: 4,102,727
> Released: 1969

Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

37. “Spirit In The Dark”
> Chart position: peaked at #23
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: N/A
> Spotify plays: 1,472,605
> Released: 1970

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Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

36. “Eleanor Rigby”
> Chart position: peaked at #17
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 8
> Spotify plays: 2,401,528
> Released: 1969

Source: Courtesy of RCA Records

35. “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves”
> Chart position: peaked at #18
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: N/A
> Spotify plays: 1,540,635
> Released: 1985

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Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

34. “You’re All I Need To Get By”
> Chart position: peaked at #19
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 9
> Spotify plays: 1,711,987
> Released: 1971

Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

33. “Ain’t No Way”
> Chart position: peaked at #16
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 8
> Spotify plays: 5,428,965
> Released: 1968

Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

32. “See Saw”
> Chart position: peaked at #14
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 8
> Spotify plays: 2,368,755
> Released: 1968

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Source: Courtesy of Arista Records

31. “Through The Storm”
> Chart position: peaked at #16
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: N/A
> Spotify plays: 322,980
> Released: 1989

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records

30. “Something He Can Feel”
> Chart position: peaked at #28
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 12
> Spotify plays: 1,820,148
> Released: 1976

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Source: Courtesy of Arista Records

29. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”
> Chart position: peaked at #21
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 11
> Spotify plays: 762,470
> Released: 1986

Source: Courtesy of Arista Records

28. “Jump To It”
> Chart position: peaked at #24
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 12
> Spotify plays: 886,694
> Released: 1982

Source: Courtesy of Arista Records

27. “Jimmy Lee”
> Chart position: peaked at #28
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 13
> Spotify plays: 214,545
> Released: 1987

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Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

26. “Share Your Love With Me”
> Chart position: peaked at #13
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 10
> Spotify plays: 1,638,154
> Released: 1969

Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

25. “Don’t Play That Song”
> Chart position: peaked at #11
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: N/A
> Spotify plays: 4,073,613
> Released: 1970

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Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

24. “The House That Jack Built”
> Chart position: peaked at #6
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 9
> Spotify plays: 2,615,151
> Released: 1968

Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

23. “Without Love”
> Chart position: peaked at #45
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 8
> Spotify plays: N/A
> Released: 1974

Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

22. “Rock Steady”
> Chart position: peaked at #9
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 9
> Spotify plays: 10,436,810
> Released: 1971

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Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

21. “Angel”
> Chart position: peaked at #20
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 13
> Spotify plays: 1,351,767
> Released: 1973

Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

20. “I’m In Love”
> Chart position: peaked at #19
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 13
> Spotify plays: 682,627
> Released: 1974

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Source: Courtesy of Arista Records

19. “Another Night”
> Chart position: peaked at #22
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 14
> Spotify plays: 227,448
> Released: 1986

Source: Courtesy of 4 Men With Beards Records

18. “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)”
> Chart position: peaked at #9
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 11
> Spotify plays: 10,587,452
> Released: 1967

Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

17. “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone”
> Chart position: peaked at #5
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 12
> Spotify plays: 266,123
> Released: 1968

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Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

16. “Baby I Love You”
> Chart position: peaked at #4
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 11
> Spotify plays: 7,312,402
> Released: 1967

Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

15. “Bridge Over Troubled Water/Brand New Me”
> Chart position: peaked at #6
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 12
> Spotify plays: 3,958,768
> Released: 1971

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Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

14. “Day Dreaming”
> Chart position: peaked at #5
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 12
> Spotify plays: 3,189,252
> Released: 1972

Source: Courtesy of Rhino Flashback Records

13. “Spanish Harlem”
> Chart position: peaked at #2
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 12
> Spotify plays: 2,371,503
> Released: 1971

Source: Courtesy of Rhino Flashback Records

12. “A Natural Woman (You Make Me Feel Like)”
> Chart position: peaked at #8
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 9
> Spotify plays: 37,230,441
> Released: 1967

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Source: Courtesy of Arista Records

11. “A Rose Is Still A Rose”
> Chart position: peaked at #26
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 18
> Spotify plays: 1,529,779
> Released: 1998

Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

10. “Call Me/Son Of A Preacher Man”
> Chart position: peaked at #13
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 12
> Spotify plays: 29,030,682
> Released: 1970

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Source: Courtesy of Arista Records

9. “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)”
> Chart position: peaked at #1
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: N/A
> Spotify plays: 17,207,731
> Released: 1987

Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

8. “Chain Of Fools”
> Chart position: peaked at #2
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 12
> Spotify plays: 19,992,187
> Released: 1968

Source: Courtesy of Arista Records

7. “Willing To Forgive”
> Chart position: peaked at #26
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 20
> Spotify plays: 277,183
> Released: 1994

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Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

6. “Think”
> Chart position: peaked at #7
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 10
> Spotify plays: 57,581,563
> Released: 1968

Source: Courtesy of Arista Records

5. “Who’s Zoomin’ Who”
> Chart position: peaked at #7
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 19
> Spotify plays: 5,009,964
> Released: 1985

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Source: Courtesy of Arista Records

4. “Freeway Of Love”
> Chart position: peaked at #3
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 19
> Spotify plays: 6,005,209
> Released: 1985

Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

3. “Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)”
> Chart position: peaked at #3
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 21
> Spotify plays: 3,292,107
> Released: 1974

Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

2. “I Say A Little Prayer”
> Chart position: peaked at #10
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 11
> Spotify plays: 100,918,153
> Released: 1968

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Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

1. “Respect”
> Chart position: peaked at #1
> Weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 12
> Spotify plays: 155,738,121
> Released: 1967

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