A Look Back on Aretha Franklin’s Country Moments

The Queen of Soul Left an Indelible Mark on Music City

It’s a moment in time Faith Hill will no doubt always remember and cherish. The day she found out she’d be working with her hero, Aretha Franklin.

Back in 2006, Franklin was putting together a brand-new album, Aretha: A Woman Falling Out of Love. There were other special guest appearances on the album, but Hill was the only country star in the mix. And although the two couldn’t be in the room to record the duet in person, and the track would eventually be shelved, Hill received the highest praise the Queen of Soul could give.

“She was fabulous, just fabulous,” Franklin told Billboard of Hill. “She’s a very nice lady.”

Today, like so many of us, Hill is mourning the loss of an icon, a hero, and a friend.

“GLORY, GLORY, GLORY to the ALMIGHTY!!! The choir of angels now have the greatest voice of all time to lead,” Hill exalted on social media, “praise and join in to sing before Jesus. I wanted to share this photo because it shows just how soulful Aretha was without uttering a word. To say I was humbled to be in her presence would be an understatement.”

Franklin was no stranger to Tennessee — or Nashville for that matter. Though raised in Detroit, she was raised in Memphis and throughout her career always maintained some sort of connection to Music City, either through touring or songs.

In 1964, Franklin tipped her hat to the late great Hank Williams with a cover of “Cold, Cold Heart.” In 1967, Franklin put her spin on Willie Nelson’s “Night Life” and followed with a cover Glen Campbell’s country and pop hit “Gentle on My Mind” in 1969, while Nashville returned the favor in 1971 with Barbara Mandrell’s cover of “Do Right Woman — Do Right Man,” Franklin’s anthemic and bold ballad from 1967.

Mandrell even named her band “The Do-Rites.”

And from there, the country star covers of Franklin’s vast catalog of iconic songs really haven’t stopped. From Reba to Kelly Clarkson to Hill and her hubby Tim McGraw, who have together performed Franklin’s hit with George Michael “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” on tour, any chance an artist gets to pay “Respect” to the Queen, they take it. Even the Lower Broadway honky-tonks are bursting at the seams with talented dreamers and artists belting out Franklin in their nightly sets to the delight of tourists, locals and fans.

It’s the least they can do, after all, for a woman who’s changed the cultural and musical landscape for generations to come.

Franklin’s final Nashville concert was a sold-out night at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center back in 2015. At 73, she still knew how to hold an audience in the palm of her hand and bring them to their feet, which she did in the country music capital of the world. And none of us are surprised, are we? Because the boundaries of genre never have been and never will be a match for the incomparable voice, the unprecedented soul and the heart of Aretha Louise Franklin.

Long live The Queen.

Samantha is a country radio insider with a deep love for the music and its stars. She can often be found on a red carpet or at a late-night guitar pull.