Go ahead and add Harvard Graduate to the neverending list of accomplishments for Aretha Franklin. Yesterday the Queen of Soul received an honorary degree of the arts from Harvard University during the class of 2014’s commencement. Former President George H.W. Bush (a graduate of Harvard’s rival Yale) and Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (who holds an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School) were also in attendance to receive honorary degrees. Aretha Franklin began the ceremony by performing “The Star Spangled Banner” for the delighted crowd.
While being a Harvard graduate is no small accomplishment, it’s a testament to Aretha Franklin’s career that it somehow remains one of the smaller feats on her resume. A resume that includes 18 Grammy Awards, 75 million records sold worldwide, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and Rock & Roll and Gospel Hall of Fame Honors. As if that weren’t enough, Franklin holds the distinction of being Rolling Stone’s Number 1 Singer of All Time and the most charted female artist in Billboard history.
Franklin began her career at the age of 14 with her father serving as manager. At age 19 she released her self titled debut album which included the first of many Billboard Hot 100 singles “Won’t Be Long”. From then on, Franklin enjoyed a steady climb of success with a major leap in her 1967 cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect”, now her signature song and at the time an anthem of feminism and civil rights. Since then Franklin ahs continued to branch out and achieve wonders with her music, most notably in 1998 with an internationally lauded performance of “Nessun Dorma” at the Grammy Awards. Recently, Franklin has hinted at an upcoming collaboration with Andre 3000. There’s no telling what the future holds for the recent Harvard graduate.
Her stellar performance of the national anthem can be seen here on Harvard’s Youtube Page.