Aretha Franklin, Count Basie and more inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame

The Blues Hall of Fame just added several legends to its ranks.

Aretha Franklin, Count Basie and Booker T. & the M.G.’s were among the artists who were honoured as the 40th class of inductees in a ceremony in Memphis on Wednesday night.

“Aretha Franklin was hailed for decades as the Queen of Soul, but in her time many also viewed her as the Queen of the Blues,” the Blues Foundation says. “To many more her gospel fervor, striking intimacy, vocal range, and impeccable timing and control made her simply the greatest singer ever, regardless of genre.”

In her debut session with Columbia Records in 1960, Franklin recorded Today I Sing the Blues, the first of more than 100 singles and dozens more albums to hit the Billboard charts, thanks to her masterful way of incorporating the blues into soul and pop songs. Many of her biggest hits like Respect and Chain of Fools became standards among blues performers — and still are to this day. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She won 18 Grammy Awards in addition to the Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Franklin died in August, 2018, at age 76.

Jazz giant Count Basie built his swinging sound on the back of blues and left a legacy that will live forever. He introduced generations of listeners to the big band sound and his extensive discography with the Count Basie Orchestra has had a lasting influence on the jazz idiom. He won nine Grammy Awards, had four recordings inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by former President Ronald Reagan. He died in 1984 at age 79.

“While he has been honoured with too many awards to mention, it is only appropriate that the Blues Hall of Fame recognize Count Basie both for the debt he owed to the blues and for what he gave back in return,” the Blues Foundation says.

Booker T. & the M.G.’s were instrumental in crafting and cementing the sound of Memphis soul. In the 1960s, the group backed up the big stars of Stax Records like Otis Redding, Bill Withers and Albert King, while making more than a dozen chart-topping hits of their own, such as Hip-Hug-Her and Time Is Tight. The group is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Others who joined the Blues Hall of Fame this year include blues singer and vaudeville performer Ida Cox and R&B and blues guitarist Pee Wee Crayton. The hall also added several recordings, including I Got a Woman by Ray Charles, Shake Your Moneymaker by Elmore James and Rollin’ Stone by Muddy Waters.