Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin (Courtesy photo)

Even in death, the accolades for Aretha Franklin continue, the latest being the Pulitzer Prize Special Citation honor received Monday by her family.

The new tribute makes Franklin, who died from pancreatic cancer in August at age 76, the first woman awarded the citation since it was first awarded in 1930.

The award was given to the Memphis, Tenn., native for “her indelible contribution to American music and culture for more than five decades,” according to the Pulitzer board.

“Aretha is blessed and highly favored even in death,” Sabrina Owens, Franklin’s niece and the executor of her estate, told The Associated Press on Monday. “She’s continued to receive multiple awards — she’s received almost every award imaginable and now to get the Pulitzer Prize, it’s just amazing. Aretha continues to bless us with her music and just paving the way for women going forward. It’s thrilling. She would be so happy right now.”

The Queen of Soul was also the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when she entered the prestigious organization in 1987.

Before Monday, only 41 special citation prizes had been awarded since 1930, and winners have ranged from individual people to organizations and groups, including the New York Times, writers E.B. White, Alex Haley and Kenneth Roberts, and Columbia University and its Graduate School of Journalism. Franklin and the Capital Gazette newspaper received special citation honors this year.

Franklin, the mother of four sons, grew up singing in the church alongside her father C.L. Franklin, a prominent Baptist minister who recorded dozens of albums of sermons and music. She joined him on tour and eventually released a gospel album in 1956.

Four years later, she signed with Columbia Records and when her contract ran out in 1966, she joined Atlantic Records and blazed the pop and R&B charts with a string of hits, including “Respect,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Think,” “Chain of Fools,” “Day Dreaming,” “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone,” “Rock Steady” and “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do).”

Franklin’s Grammy-winning album “Amazing Grace” is the basis for the recently released concert film of the same name, filmed over two sessions in January 1972 at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in the Watts section of Los Angeles.

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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