This past year, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Aretha Franklin at number one in their Greatest Singers of All Time issue. Aretha holds the distinction of winning multiple Grammy Awards with 45 Billboard Hot 100 hits. 

Franklin will perform in Washington at the January 20th swearing-in ceremony of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama. The "Queen of Soul" joined VOA for a rare look at one of music's true icons.

Aretha Franklin earned "respect" and the first of her Grammys with a cover version of the Otis Redding song "Respect."

How does Franklin define the term "diva"?

"Diva? one who is very grand," she said. "One who has major credentials ? who at times has been called difficult."

In the "Blues Brothers" film, Franklin played a sassy waitress married to the band's guitar player. 

For most of the past 40 years, however, she has been known as the "Queen of Soul."

"Chicago at the Regal Theater? it was at that time that Barry (Gordy) was just launching Motown (Records), and some of the artists that performed there with me at that time were The Contours, The Marvelettes, and The Temptations," she recalls."We were all only about 17 or 18 years-old, but we were all coming along together. The gentleman that produced those shows, Pervis Span, they used to call him 'Pervis Span The Blues Man'? (of) radio station WVON out of Chicago is the one who brought the crown on stage one evening."

Aretha owes part of her success and longevity to the way record companies worked to develop artists when she was starting her career. "I really do like the way that I came along. Little by little, and I wasn't thrust into something before I could learn what it was I was doing ? learn and hone my craft," she said. "Slowly learn(ing) this industry without being shot right out in to the stratosphere ? you are a star, you are a superstar."  

Aretha has just released her first-ever Christmas CD. She explains why it took so long.

"The Chairman of the Board, Jerry Wexler, at Atlantic (Records) and Clive Davis at J and Arista (Records) just never thought that a Christmas album was that important, and I always did ? so now is the time to do it.I am just thrilled with it (Christmas CD) ? just thrilled with it.I had to do the traditional things like 'Silent Night', and 'Angels We Have Heard On High.' That is one of my favorites? that is my favorite," she states.

A rough flight on a small plane 25 years ago caused the singer to stop flying.She has plans to try it again, and is hoping to be able to tour Europe again soon? maybe by next Christmas.

Some video courtesy of DMI Music, GQ Media