Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, hardly needs an introduction.
For over 60 years, she gave us everything from soul to R&B to blues to Gospel. She truly never missed a beat.
It’s a nearly impossible task to narrow down the best Aretha Franklin songs, but we’re up to the challenge.
17 Best Aretha Franklin Songs
17. “The Weight” (1969)
Although it wasn’t a song that reached as high on the charts as many others, the Queen of Soul’s cover of the Band’s “The Weight” is certainly one of the best Aretha Franklin songs.
Franklin turned the original country rock tune into an R&B hit. It was featured on her 30 Greatest Hits compilation album in 1985.
16. “A Deeper Love” (1994)
While “A Deeper Love” was initially recorded and released by remix duo Clivillés and Cole, they supported Franklin’s cover of the track and even served as the producers.
The song added to the list of Franklin’s number-one songs and earned her a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
Although she didn’t win the Grammy, it was featured during the end credits of Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, starring Whoopi Goldberg.
Clearly, it was one of the producers’ favorite Aretha Franklin songs, too.
15. “What Y’all Came to Do” (2007)
Aretha Franklin was joined by “All of Me” singer John Legend for this new duet featured on her 2007 album of classic duets Jewels in the Crown: All-Star Duets with the Queen.
“What Y’all Came to Do” is an R&B hit that will make you want to “get out of your seat and move” when Friday night rolls around.
It’s certainly one of the best Aretha Franklin songs that feature another vocalist, but that could be said of most tracks on Jewels in the Crown.
14. “I Say a Little Prayer” (1968)
Aretha Franklin released the Dionne Warwick cover “I Say a Little Prayer” in 1968 and, by doing so, reintroduced the brisk tempo song to the Pop and R&B Top Ten charts.
Franklin put her twist on the already famous hit, thereby solidifying her mark on the history of the iconic song.
We’re glad she and The Sweet Inspirations were fooling around one day, singing the song between rehearsals; otherwise, we may not have gotten one of the best Aretha Franklin songs.
Related: The 15 Best Female Singers of All Time: No Auto-tuned Artists Allowed
13. “Sweet Bitter Love” (1985)
Featuring a slow melody and an effortless piano, this moody Aretha Franklin song tells the story of love gone wrong and the unbearable heartache that comes with it.
Franklin’s powerful vocals on “Sweet Bitter Love” perfectly capture this universal human emotion of love lost, giving us chills every time.
12. “Day Dreaming” (1972)
This soul tune with a hint of jazz, backed by an electric piano and a flute, is one of the best 70s Aretha Franklin songs.
Written by Franklin herself, she admitted during an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1999 that “Day Dreaming” was about Temptations’ singer Dennis Edwards, whom she was in a relationship with at the time of its release.
Her12th number-one soul single with Atlanta Records, “Day Dreaming” is one of the best Aretha Franklin songs with a jazz influence.
11. “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” (1967)
“Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” finds Aretha Franklin start out in a Gospel-like tone but eventually shifts into the classic soul sound that we love about the legendary singer.
This sensual song, according to Bill Janovitz, “contrasts the power of temptation and rewards of fidelity” with a “soothing” melody to accompany it.
It’s another power hit showcasing Franklin’s efforts for women’s rights, as women are encouraged to stand up for themselves, and men are encouraged to be loyal and responsible towards their women instead of disrespectful and abusive.
10. “Angel” (1973)
This beautifully crafted soul ballad showcases the truly smooth vocals that Aretha Franklin possessed.
As she sings of the need to “find me an angel in my life,” we’re captivated by the soothing sound every time.
It held the top spot on the U.S. R&B Singles chart for two weeks and sold over 900,000 copies.
“Angel” was co-written by Sonny Sanders and Franklin’s sister, Carolyn Franklin, who also provided background vocals.
Meanwhile, Franklin showed off yet another gift, serving as the track’s co-producer with Quincy Jones.
9. “Call Me” (1970)
“I love you… call me.”
Imagine hearing a couple simply say that before parting and turning it into a hit soul ballad.
That’s precisely what Aretha Franklin did with her 1970 single “Call Me.” Backed by a simple acoustic piano and dynamic background vocals, the song peaked at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Best-Selling Soul Singles Chart.
8. “Young, Gifted, and Black” (1972)
Aretha Franklin included this Nina Simone hit on her 1972 album of the same name, Young, Gifted, and Black, and we can see why.
In the song, her vocals grab us yet again as she proudly sings of the gift of being “Young, Gifted and Black,” uplifting young listeners everywhere to embrace who they are and go after the future that’s waiting for them.
It’s befitting of a woman who spent many years using her platform to support Women’s Rights and the Civil Rights Movement alongside Martin Luther King.
7. “Chain of Fools” (1967)
It’s happened to millions of people. You think you’re in a long-term, committed relationship, only to find out your boyfriend has been cheating all along. Yet, you love him anyway.
With Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools,” she gives us the ultimate R&B, soul, and rock up-tempo song of being caught in a vicious cycle of sticking with your man even though others tell you to leave.
As the singer predicts by the song’s end, “the chain is gonna break, but until the day, I’m gonna take all I can take.”
6. “Rock Steady” (1971)
Aretha Franklin didn’t just show off her vocals but her songwriting skills for this 1971 single, “Rock Steady.”
From the Young, Gifted and Black album, she proves that she lives up to that description with this upbeat, funk hit.
The song peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at No. 9 and was a number two hit on the Best-Selling Soul Singles chart the year of its release, but its popularity continued even beyond.
Decades later, it was included in the soundtrack for the 2017 American comedy-drama The Upside and even Ellen DeGeneres’ 2018 Netflix stand-up comedy special, Relatable.
As Franklin would proudly say, “Rock Steady, Baby.”
5. “Amazing Grace” (1972)
There’s no question that there have been some fantastic covers of this classic Christian hymn since it was published in 1779, but Aretha Franklin’s 1972 cover of “Amazing Grace” hits us hardest every time.
During the beautifully powerful rendition of this title track from her best-selling Gospel album, for which she’s joined by James Cleveland and The Southern California Community Choir, Franklin takes us to church with her perfectly articulated notes and phrasing.
The song earned her a Grammy for Best Gospel Performance, and we can see why.
Related: 20 Best Music Documentaries: You Now Have Plans This Weekend
4. “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” (1973)
It may have originally been recorded by Stevie Wonder in 1967, but it’s Franklin’s version of the soul song “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” that the world remembers the most.
Franklin’s version brought the song to the No. 1 spot on the R&B chart and No. 3 Hot 100 chart in 1974 and has since been certified gold.
When this song peaked at No. 3 on the Hot 100 chart, she officially marked herself as the first artist in history to have a song peak at each of the top 10 positions on the chart.
That feat has only been repeated since by Marvin Gaye (1983), Madonna (1996), Drake (2013), and Taylor Swift (2015).
This standout amongst the best Aretha Franklin songs is just one more reason why she’s the Queen of Soul.
3. “Think” (1968)
The Queen showcases her incredible vocal range in this song that, according to the former magazine Cash Box, has “wailing lyrics of a hard-luck love affair” and “tremendous rhythmic drive.”
Billboard described it as a “pulsating swinger with another wild performance” similar to “Respect.”
All we know is that every time we hear this No. 1 hit, it has us shouting, “Freedom!”
2. “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” (1967)
Aretha Franklin shows off her powerful vocals in this 1967 hit that quickly became one of her most iconic and signature songs.
“(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” is the ultimate expression of finding someone who makes you feel like you can be yourself.
And to think it all came about because songwriters Gerry Coffin and Carole King wrote it after the latter had producer Jerry Wexler, co-owner of Atlantic Records, shout at her that he wanted a “natural woman.”
The song is just as legendary as the performer, and when they come together, you’re in for a real treat.
Even former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, would agree.
Franklin “brought the house down” when she performed the song at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in 2016, in honor of the song’s co-writer Carole King when she received the Kennedy Center Honors Lifetime Achievement Award.
Related: The 15 Hardest Songs to Sing To: Challenging Your Vocal Range
1. “Respect” (1967)
She deserves the ultimate “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” for this song which is why it had to rank at the top of our list for the best Aretha Franklin songs.
Even Rolling Stones ranked it Number-one on their 2021 list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
The Queen of Soul may not have been the original singer of the tune, but it was her choice to add the famous spelling of the title word as the strong, confident voice of the narrator demands respect from her man.
It was one of many changes Franklin made to the 1965 song by Otis Redding that made her version the most legendary of all.
You May Also Like: