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Publisher's Summary

You know her voice. Now hear her story. 

Audible has teamed up with Rolling Stone to produce an uncompromisingly honest Audible Original that honors the life and legacy of the incomparable Aretha Franklin. Aretha’s universal appeal was evident from the release of her first album at age 14 through her nearly 50 Top 40 hits. Yet this intimate biography reminds us that Aretha knew pain as much as she knew glory. It was the blues, residing deep within her soul, that gave way to a voice able to lift millions with a profound sense of freedom, self-worth, and undeniable talent to rise above sorrow. 

Aretha’s unshakeable foundation of faith - fueled by a childhood spent singing in church alongside her famous father, minister C.L. Franklin - allowed her to blend heartbreak with spirituality in soul-stirring song. By diving into the true story of Aretha - from the years following her mother’s passing to the moment she decided to become a singer - the listener can’t help but glimpse the roots of the sorrow behind her famous eyes.

©2018 Rolling Stone, LLC. (P)2018 Audible Originals, LLC.

Our favorite moments from The Queen

The sorrowful childhood that fueled her powerful voice
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Get to know Aretha’s famous father, minister C.L. Franklin
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The moment that moved Aretha to sing
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  • The Queen
  • The sorrowful childhood that fueled her powerful voice
  • The Queen
  • Get to know Aretha’s famous father, minister C.L. Franklin
  • The Queen
  • The moment that moved Aretha to sing

About the Author

Mikal Gilmore is a writer and music journalist who has been contributing to Rolling Stone for over four decades. He has published multiple books on music and culture, including Night Beat: A History of Rock and Roll and Stories Done: Writings on the 1960s and Its Discontents. Over the course of his career, Gilmore has profiled a wide range of musicians across genres, including Tupac Shakur, Frank Sinatra, David Bowie, and Chuck Berry. He has also turned the lens of his candid work towards his most intimate family memories. His brother, Gary Gilmore, demanded and, in 1977, received the death penalty for two murders he committed in Utah, becoming the first person in the US to be executed in nearly a decade. Mikal's 1994 memoir Shot in the Heart explored his relationship with his brother, and the aftermath of the execution. It won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and was adapted into a 2001 HBO film. Gilmore’s forthcoming book, Stay with Me, co-written with his wife, Elaine Schock, about their shared experience during and after their difficult experience with his Stage IV cancer in 2015 and 2016, will be published in early 2019.

About the Performer

Adenrele Ojo is an award-winning actress, voice-over artist, writer, producer, and photographer. She began recording audiobooks in 2007, quickly garnering AudioFile Earphones Awards for her narration on Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, The Mothers, and Heart of Iron, as well as a 2018 Audie Award for her co-narration of Loving vs. Virginia. Born into a theatrical family, she is the daughter of John E. Allen, Jr., the late founder of the New Freedom Theatre in Philadelphia. She holds a BA in Theater from Hunter College in New York and has studied the Meisner technique at the William Esper Studio under Maggie Flanigan. Ojo’s illustrious stage credits include the 2006 production of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone by August Wilson, earning her a nomination for an Ovation Award, and The Ballad of Emmett Till by Ifa Bayeza, winner of a 2010 Ovation Award and a Los Angeles Drama Critics Award.

What listeners say about The Queen

Average Customer Ratings
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I learned so much

So much information - very well read and in order. Made me google her dad - her prior performances and more. Now I wish I had followed her even more while she was with us

18 people found this helpful

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I couldn't get through this. Father was a monster!

I was sickened by the description of her father as some sort of irreverent celebrity, with a few flaws. In reality, her was a pedophile who raped and impregnated a 12 year old girl while married. Aretha was pregnant at age 12, giving birth to a child named after her father. The fact that Aretha had to go through life with a controlling, pedophile father, with no hope of escape is heartbreaking. This bio speaks his name too many times. I couldn't get through it.

6 people found this helpful

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A Big Swing and a Miss

This had so much potential but fell far short. First of all, being an audiobook, why was there no music? What a missed opportunity!! Then half of the story was just quoting other people's books. And finally, it was boring. It was like listening to a person read a magazine article out loud. Not to take anything away from the performance of the narrator, because she was fine, but she didnt have much to work with. This work felt like it was a job assignment that someone was forced to put together quickly.

13 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars

child abuse is not the same as infidelity

having a baby with a 12 year old is child abuse, not infidelity. i stopped listening because this description upset me so much

5 people found this helpful

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Aretha The Queen needs to be heard!

This is a great biography, however it lacks the most important ingredient, Aretha’s actual singing. Short excerpts from each of her great works mentioned in this wonderful narrative will put this audio book on the #1 charts for the best book of the year. Aretha was a most exceptionally gifted individual.

10 people found this helpful

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She deserved a better biography.

Aretha gets the VH1 Behind the Music treatment in Milan Gilmore’s, The Queen. Obviously, three hours is insufficient time to capture a life, and though I didn’t hate this book, I didn’t love it either. The frequent mentions of the other biographies about the artist’s life made me long for those previous works. Glad this was a free member selection and not one I had to pay for.

4 people found this helpful

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Well done, Gilmore, Ojo, and Audible!

Very well done biography that is respectful but not idolatrous; insightful but not intrusive. This is an appreciation of a complex and hugely talented human being, and the crucible she was forged in.
Aretha has been in my musical playlist for the last 40 years. It hurts my heart that the next generations have not yet produced anyone near her caliber they can appreciate; or who can define and bless them.
Ojo’s narration is very well done.

20 people found this helpful

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A sure cure for insomnia

I love Aretha. (Who doesn't?) I also think Mikal Gilmore is a good writer. So I thought of all the Audible Originals I've acquired -- only because they were there -- this one might actually be interesting. It wasn't. It was a literal snooze fest. I should keep it in my library just for times I actually want to sleep and can't.

3 people found this helpful

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More than you really wanted to know about AF

The author kind of skims along the facts of Aretha's early life, personality, rise to stardom and her apparent need to disparage other artists in order to stay there. Shocking facts slip by, un-commented on. For instance, AF had her first child at age 12, her second at age 14, and refused to name either father. Might she have been threatened into not telling? But, at this point, who are you going to ask? In that way, this biography seems to skim along the surface of Aretha's life and at the same time feels like more than you really wanted to know about The Queen.

3 people found this helpful

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Sad - not what I expected

I am not sure what I expected but the story is a sad tale. I wish I never listened to it and the memories of Aretha would only be in my mind through her songs. It appears well researched and the narrator does a good job in her role. The book has more 'f-bombs' than an "R-rated" crime novel which could have been avoided. Thankfully, I wasn't listening via speakers and only headsets on certain occasions.

The book left me feeling sad for many reasons. I have read or listened to other books about entertainers where their private life was much different than anticipated but this one hit me when I wasn't expecting it.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Daft Monk
  • 11-10-18

Uninspiring

A functional but uninspiring read. It tells all the well worn anecdotes adequately, but quotes so widely from other biographies that I suspect little or no original research was put into this project.