Author Michael Erik Dyson told Noel King on NPR today, Franklin had the voice to work within any genre: "It embodied the emotional intensity that was gathered in a woman whose body bore the marks of her emotional suffering, but the joys and highs of black existence, the struggles, the protest, the resistance, the celebrations." Check out his New York Times op-ed on Franklin and her ties to the black church, "The Church of Aretha Franklin,": https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/16/opinion/aretha-franklin-church-detroit.html
Franklin, the daughter of a minister, grew up attending the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit. Michael Erik Dyson writes about her youth, recalling, "She told me how, after the Reverend Franklin mesmerized the congregation with his poetic homilies, his teenage daughter would rise behind him to ratchet up the spirit. Her uncanny aptitude was so compelling that the congregation knew that greatness and the Spirit rested in double portion on this fearless young woman. One can hear her gargantuan gift on her first gospel recording, at age 14, 'Never Grow Old.'” See Aretha Franklin sing Amazing Grace at the White House circa 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFt1FRG4_VM&frags=wn
Franklin and her family were very involved in the Civil Rights Movement. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered an early iteration of his "I Have a Dream" speech at their family church in Detroit in June, 1963. The Reverend C.L. Franklin helped raise funds for the movement. Aretha Franklin performed at many civil right fundraisers, and even paid the bail for Angela Davis when she was jailed in Detroit in the 1970s--apparently going against her father's wishes.
When she performed live, Aretha Franklin, who was also an accomplished piano player, would place her purse on top of the piano. This was not just a sign of her being watchful--it was a political statement: black performers in earlier eras often had trouble getting paid in full, or were paid far below their actual value. Placing her purse on the piano signified that Franklin had been paid in advance--a common condition of black musicians in her generation--and that she knew her own worth.
Watch Aretha Franklin perform this song as part of a skit in the movie "The Blues Brothers," from 1980 (apparently the movie studio suggested a different performer, but Dan Aykroyd insisted they cast Aretha!): https://youtu.be/WY66elCQkYk