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SOUL singer Aretha Franklin has died aged 76 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
Franklin had been “gravely ill” and passed away at 9:50am (11:50pm AEST) surrounded by family and friends in Detroit, as tributes poured in for the legendary Queen of Soul.
Grammy-winner Franklin influenced generations of pop divas with hits such as Respect (1967), Natural Woman (1968) and I Say a Little Prayer (1968).
Franklin was one of the most respected artists of all time. She cemented her place in music history with her powerful voice that stretched over four octaves, and her hits spanned from soul to R&B to gospel and pop.
She was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Franklin was only 12 when she gave birth to her first child. She had another at 14.
Franklin had four sons: Clarence Franklin (1955), Edward Franklin (1957), Ted White Jr (1964) and Kecalf Cunningham (1970).
She was married twice — her first was to former manager Ted White (1961-1969). She then married American actor Glynn Turman (1978-1984).
Having started singing at her father’s Baptist church, Franklin went on to sell millions of records as one of the most successful female artists of all-time.
Franklin signed with Columbia Records as a teenager. The label attempted to mould her into a pop singer.
She truly became “Aretha Franklin” after signing with Atlantic Records in 1966, releasing a succession of albums and singles of unparalleled power and emotional depth.
The legendary singer lived in Detroit, the home of Motown music, most of her life.
She cancelled planned concerts earlier this year after she was ordered by her doctor to stay off the road and rest up.
She was originally scheduled to perform on her 76th birthday in March in Newark, New Jersey, and at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in April.
QUEEN OF SOUL
She sang gospel songs in her father’s church and her career rose to regularly topping rhythm and blues and pop charts in the 1960s and 1970s.
Beyond Respect, her powerful cover of Otis Redding’s tune that became her calling card, Franklin had a string of Top 40 singles, according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
They included Day Dreaming (1972), Jump to It (1982), Freeway of Love (1985), and A Rose Is Still A Rose (1998), and 1987’s I Knew You Were Waiting For Me, a duet with the late George Michael.
Franklin was the most lauded female R&B vocalist of her era.
Her style influenced pop divas from Mariah Carey and the late Whitney Houston, whose mother was a backup singer for Franklin, to Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige and Amy Winehouse.
She won 18 Grammy Awards during her career, including one for Lifetime Achievement in 1994.
In 2005, Franklin was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award for an American civilian, by then-president George W Bush.
She sang at the inaugurations of two presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Franklin underwent surgery for an unspecified illness, reported to be pancreatic cancer, in December 2010 and was frequently ill, while keeping a regular concert schedule, in the years since.
She performed in November at the Elton John AIDS Foundation Gala in New York to a private audience.
Her final public performance was in Philadelphia in August 2017.
“It was a miraculous show as Aretha was already then fighting exhaustion and dehydration,” Showbiz 411 reporter Roger Friedman wrote, describing the Philadelphia concert.
That same year, Detroit named a street after her.
Franklin previously struggled with alcoholism, obesity and a heavy smoking habit.
After news about Franklin’s worsening condition broke, stars including Mariah Carey – who was heavily influenced by Franklin – offered tributes and prayers for their idol.
I’m absolutely devastated by Aretha’s passing. She was truly one of a kind. She was more than the Queen of Soul. She was a national treasure to be cherished by every generation throughout the world. (1/2)— Clive Davis (@CliveDavis)
Apart from our long professional relationship, Aretha was my friend. Her loss is deeply profound and my heart is full of sadness. (2/2)— Clive Davis (@CliveDavis)
This photo was taken in 2012 when Aretha & I performed at a tribute celebration for our friend Marvin Hamlisch. It’s difficult to conceive of a world without her. Not only was she a uniquely brilliant singer,but her commitment to civil rights made an indelible impact on the world pic.twitter.com/Px9zVB90MM— Barbra Streisand (@BarbraStreisand)
We mourn the passing of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. Her voice will keep lifting us, through the music she gave the world. Our thoughts are with her family, her loved ones and fans everywhere. Take her hand, precious Lord, and lead her home. 🎶 pic.twitter.com/I84HTEVZU1— Tim Cook (@tim_cook)
One of the highlights of my career was singing with #ArethaFranklin at The Tony Awards. It was an out of body experience for me. One of greatest singers of all time. You will be missed by all. https://t.co/L8dIIhyR9Y— Hugh Jackman (@RealHughJackman)
I’m sitting in prayer for the wonderful golden spirit Aretha Franklin.— Ms. Ross (@DianaRoss)
Mourning the loss today of @ArethaFranklin who shared her spirit and talent with the world. She deserves not only our RESPECT but also our lasting gratitude for opening our eyes, ears and hearts. Rest in eternal peace, my friend.— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton)
The whole world will miss her but will always rejoice in her remarkable legacy. The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen. #RIPArethaFranklin
Elton xx— Elton John (@eltonofficial)
Let’s all take a moment to give thanks for the beautiful life of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of our souls, who inspired us all for many many years. She will be missed but the memory of her greatness as a musician and a fine human being will live with us forever. Love Paul pic.twitter.com/jW4Gpwfdts— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney)
Aretha was such a timeless inspiration to me and so many others, the ultimate queen, thank you for the gift of your voice, music and unshakeable soul 🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/me3FXBY4WZ— Christina Aguilera (@xtina)
It was a double thrill for me to perform on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera on my 85th birthday and have the Queen of Soul (and heart) Aretha Franklin singing with me….she will be missed by the world. pic.twitter.com/74VM9IYejI— Tony Bennett (@itstonybennett)
Rest in Power, Ms. Aretha. You were the Queen. Your rendition of “Respect” launched a revolution. Our condolences go out to the Franklin family and all of her fans worldwide. – The Redding Family https://t.co/GzudOmBH5M #ArethaFranklin— Otis Redding (@OtisRedding)
— Smokey Robinson (@smokey_robinson)
Very sad to hear the news about Aretha, she was so inspiring and wherever you were she always brought you to church. pic.twitter.com/GMCzQRkahc— The Rolling Stones (@RollingStones)
— Sir Rod Stewart (@rodstewart)
Rest easy #ARETHAFRANKLIN I imagine u in heaven performing & still making people souls move🙌🏾 this was my aunt favorite record #RockSteady you will always be the Queen of Soul you been that before many of us were born! Thank you for giving us LEGENDARY TIMELESS music 🙏🏾❤️ pic.twitter.com/bEueBCLGJ9— Missy Elliott (@MissyElliott)
♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ☁️ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ pic.twitter.com/J2Y1eEbSXo— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande)
— Lionel Richie (@LionelRichie)
— Britney Spears (@britneyspears)
The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, is dead. She was a great woman, with a wonderful gift from God, her voice. She will be missed!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)
We’re saddened by the loss of Aretha Franklin. Asteroid 249516 Aretha, found by our NEOWISE mission and named after the singer to commemorate the #QueenOfSoul, will keep orbiting beyond Mars. See more details: https://t.co/NlW4vkmKDq pic.twitter.com/yZ0E5ofSQT— NASA (@NASA)
This is the face of a young man who couldn’t believe he was actually singing with the GREATEST OF ALL TIME. Thank you, Ms. Franklin for blessing us with your incomparable gift. Honored to have shared the stage with you even for a moment. Always bowing down to you. #QueenofSoul pic.twitter.com/4bZVAWcqeS— Justin Timberlake (@jtimberlake)
Aretha Franklin was an artistic genius and trailblazer whose gift to the world transcends time.
Long live the Queen of Soul as we pass her music on from generation to generation.
May she Rest In Peace.— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump)
Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade—our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace. pic.twitter.com/bfASqKlLc5— Barack Obama (@BarackObama)
I treasured every moment that we spent together from working in the recording studio, to performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, or simply hangin’ in the kitchen, & I will miss her dearly. RIP Ree-Ree…You will reign as the Queen forever. pic.twitter.com/Gyr3q13n8P— Quincy Jones (@QuincyDJones)
Rest In Peace to our Queen of Soul. Her contribution to music and to the empowerment and enrichment of our hearts, Spirits and souls is immeasurable.
Thank you Ms. Aretha Franklin for sharing your anointed gifts with us. They changed the world. We are deeply grateful!
♥️MLH— Ms. Lauryn Hill (@MsLaurynHill)
— Carole King (@Carole_King)
I can’t remember a day of my life without Aretha Franklin’s voice and music filling up my heart with so much joy and sadness. Absolutely heartbroken she’s gone, what a woman. Thank you for everything, the melodies and the movements 💔
A post shared by Adele (@adele) on
The greatest voice in American popular music has been stilled. Our beloved #ArethaFranklin has gone. For me, she was a musical lighthouse, guiding and inspiring with every note. I loved her so and love her still. Goodbye, Queen of Soul.— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler)
As the One and Only ‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin was simply peerless. She has reigned supreme. and will always be held in the highest firmament of stars as the most exceptional vocalist, performer and recording artist the world has ever been privilege… https://t.co/7DH7TIP3Nl pic.twitter.com/HfQh7kLM4o— Annie Lennox (@AnnieLennox)
Aretha Franklin. The Queen of Soul. The Icon. The ultimate singers’ singer. The greatest singer and musician of my lifetime. The power of your voice in music and in civil rights blew open the door for me and so many others. You were my inspiration, my mentor and my friend. pic.twitter.com/QD9pxvGLLh— Mariah Carey (@MariahCarey)
I will forever cherish the moments I spent in your presence. Your indelible impact was earned not only by your incomparable voice but by your bigger than life personality, wit and humor. I say a BIG prayer for you. You will forever have all our RESPECT. Love, Mariah ♥️ pic.twitter.com/97qk0J64rO— Mariah Carey (@MariahCarey)
— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah)
Aretha. Where do I start? Your voice and your spirit and soul has leaked into my heart and mind and spirit since I was a child. One of the very first songs I remember hearing as a human was ‘I say a little prayer’… pic.twitter.com/8vOebR5Af8— Sam Smith (@samsmithworld)
Been listening to this for the past couple of days. What an amazing illustration of the spirit that is @ArethaFranklin
Listen to this, look up to the stars and know she is with the Master now.https://t.co/tjxCIzmciX— Pharrell Williams (@Pharrell)
‘Happy memories of being with Aretha on movie sets and industry events. The Queen had a wry, skeptical eye on the world but once you got her laughing you were in. What a voice! What a soul. Angel choirs should prepare for increased rehearsal and discipline.’— Dan Aykroyd (@dan_aykroyd)
Aretha Franklin QUEEN of Soul, voice of a generation, one of a kind,took no crap+she didn’t fly, she wore fur 2 an inauguration & dared someone2 say something,she is now in the pantheon of Gods greats,in the busom of family. She was my friend,condolences 2her family&2 us all pic.twitter.com/ax6h48S27g— Whoopi Goldberg (@WhoopiGoldberg)
A post shared by Jennifer Hudson (@iamjhud) on
There will never be another Aretha Franklin. We love you, Queen. 🙏🏻 RIP— Sheryl Crow (@SherylCrow)
👑 Aretha…..Go Gently Into That Good Night.Your Glorious,One Of a Kind Voice Will Be With Us Forever🙏🏻.
You were Always Just Beyond Our Reach#SkyLark— Cher (@cher)
My heart 💔 is broken with the loss of my Queen, my Mentor, my True Friend 😪
I will always cherish our moments together and LOVE YOU FOREVER. My heartfelt condolences to your family #ArethaFranklin #SoulSister #QueenofSoul 💖 pic.twitter.com/NB2UD7OhSI— Chaka Khan (@ChakaKhan)
A Hollywood movie about her rise to stardom is currently in production, starring Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson.
In January, Deadline reported that Franklin personally chose Hudson to play her in the MGM-produced bio-pic, with the working title Queen of Soul.
Music producer and Franklin’s long-time friend Clive Davis announced the movie at his annual pre-Grammys party when introducing Hudson, who performed a medley of Franklin’s hits Think, Rock Steady and Natural Woman.