Years before Aretha Franklin was crowned Queen of Soul, Ruth Brown reigned as the Original Queen of R&B. She achieved a distinct style, sassy and streetwise, which made her one of the more influential singers of her era. Ms. Brown sustained a career for six decades: first as a bright, bluesy singer who was called “the girl with a tear in her voice” and then, after some lean years, as the embodiment of an earthy, indomitable black woman. She had a life of hard work, hard luck, determination, audacity and style. Sometimes it was said that R&B stood as much for Ruth Brown as it did for rhythm and blues.