Today Aretha Louise Franklin celebrates 70 years on this earth, 50 of which she has spent as one of America’s greatest talents.

The shy preacher’s daughter got her start singing at the Detroit church of her father, Rev. C.L. Franklin. Branching out from her gospel background, she recorded her first jazz-influenced album in 1961. Since then, she has recorded some of the best music of our time, rightly earning her the moniker the “Queen of Soul.”     

Today, as Ms. Franklin blows out 70 birthday candles, we asked ESSENCE readers to tell us why they adore Aretha. Here’s what they had to say.

Happy birthday, Aretha Franklin!

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