Remembering Aretha Franklin, "A Very Special Christmas" Artist

“Aretha Franklin brought joy to millions — and engaged as many hearts and minds through her advocacy,” Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver said. “She sang to the world about respect and inclusion. Her appearances on two ‘A Very Special Christmas’ albums with her renditions of “O Christmas Tree” and “Winter Wonderland” , illustrated the power of music to build a movement for positive change. All of us in the Special Olympics family send our Amen to her beautiful spirit.”


Aretha Franklin’s contributions to the A Very Special Christmas album series help provide funds to Special Olympics Programs in over 160 countries and territories. With approximately $131 million in royalties and investment proceeds, A Very Special Christmas is the single most successful benefit recording in history. Grants from the Christmas Records Trust have enabled Special Olympics to implement programs worldwide, from the United States to Timor Leste, China to Uganda, Cambodia to Haiti and more. In the United States, these funds have also supported Special Olympics programs in urban areas such as New York City, Philadelphia and New Orleans.

Known over the world by her first name and as the undisputed, reigning "Queen of Soul," Aretha Franklin is peerless. She is a 2005 recipient of a Presidential Medal Of Freedom honor (the U.S.A.'s highest honor), 17 Grammy Awards (and counting), a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a Grammy Living Legend Award. Her ever-distinctive soulful, to-the-bone vocal style has graced the music charts for over four decades and while her 'live' performances have touched the hearts of literally millions since she began her musical journey as a gospel-singing child prodigy, it is her rich legacy of recordings that are a testament to the power, majesty and genius of this one-of-a-kind artist of the first order.

Special Olympics is heartbroken to learn of the passing of our friend Aretha Franklin. The impact that her A Very Special Christmas album donations had on our movement is immeasurable. Our thoughts are with her family at this time.

Click here to learn more about A Very Special Christmas and Franklin’s contribution.