Aretha Franklin’s passing last week magnified just how wide reaching and deep of an impact the Queen of Soul had on the world – tributes poured in everywhere from her hometown of Detroit to London, where murals popped up in her honor.
Franklin, who grew up singing gospel music at her father’s church, was signed to Columbia Records in 1960. Her first number one single, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” was released in 1967 and is the song she is still best known for.
Then came the slew of Grammy Awards and nods she took home – a whopping 18 wins and 44 nominations.
The recognition did not stop there. Franklin was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a Presidential Medal of Freedom inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and has had the pleasure of performing at the inaugurations of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – the latter of which solidified her as a style icon in the modern era for a new generation.
But her lifelong fans knew, that Franklin had been fashion royalty all along, whether she was rocking boho bell dresses, embellished gowns or her famous fur coats – one of which she epically dropped during her performance at the Kennedy Center Honors dedicated to Carole King in 2015.
But her bags had a bigger purpose than just good style. When she performed, Franklin would demand payment upfront in cash after seeing other black singers not getting their dues.
“It’s the era she grew up in- she saw so many people like Ray Charles and B.B. King get ripped off,” American talk show host Tavis Smiley told The New Yorker. “There is the sense in her very often that people are out to harm you. And she won’t have it. You are not going to disrespect her.”
After getting paid, she’d also stash the cash in her bag and bring it on-stage while she sang.
“She’s got her money, she’s ready to move, to go wherever she needs to be,” Rickey Minor, the musical director of the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony told the New York Times. How many times do you leave your purse in the dressing room and have it go missing before you say, “I worked hard for this money – I’m going to put my purse right here where I can see it?”