Aretha Franklin makes history with posthumous Pulitzer Prize win

The Pulitzer board said the award was given to the soul star for her indelible contribution to American music and culture.

Aretha Franklin has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize special citation, becoming the first individual woman to earn the prize since it was first awarded in 1930.

The Pulitzer board said the award was given to the Queen of Soul for her indelible contribution to American music and culture for more than five decades.

Franklin died on August 16 at her home in Detroit from pancreatic cancer at the age of 76.

The superstar was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when she entered the prestigious organisation in 1987.

The Pulitzer board most recently awarded a special citation prize in 2010 to Hank Williams, the country music legend who died in 1953.

From the arts world, other recipients include Duke Ellington, Bob Dylan, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, George Gershwin, Ray Bradbury, William Schuman, Milton Babbitt, Scott Joplin, Roger Sessions, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.

Franklin’s inclusion reconfirms the impact her music — and voice — continues to have on the world.

She became a cultural icon and genius of American song, considered by many to be the greatest popular vocalist of her time. Her voice transcended age, category and her own life.

She was a professional singer and accomplished pianist by her late teens and a superstar by her mid-20s.

Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin (Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)

Raised in Detroit, she recorded hundreds of tracks and had dozens of hits over half a century.

But her reputation was defined by an extraordinary run of Top 10 smashes in the late 1960s, from the morning-after bliss of (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, to the wised-up Chain Of Fools to her unstoppable call for Respect, transforming Otis Redding’s song into a classic worldwide anthem — especially for the feminist and civil rights movements — making it one of the most recognisable and heard songs of all-time.

She sold millions of albums and won countless awards, including 18 Grammys, the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honour.

She performed at the inaugurations of presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, and even sang at the funeral for civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks and at the dedication of Martin Luther King Jr’s memorial.

Rolling Stone put Franklin at the head of its list of the Top 100 singers and she was named one of the 20 most important entertainers of the 20th century by Time magazine.

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