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Aretha Louise Franklin, known throughout the world as the “Queen Of Soul”, died peacefully at age 76 in her Detroit home this morning, following a prolonged struggle with pancreatic cancer. The iconic singer, who recorded a score of number one R&B songs during her 61-year career, passed away surrounded by loving family and friends.

By Nathan James

She was widely regarded as a musical genius, redefining the pop, R&B, gospel and soul genres with her inimitable voice and style. Gwendolyn Quinn, Franklin’s publicist, released a statement on behalf of the diva’s family, confirming that Franklin died at 9:50 AM. “Aretha helped define the American experience,” former President Barack Obama tweeted, “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.”

Aretha Franklin and father the Rev. C.L. Franklin

Franklin, a Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, UK Music Hall Of Fame, and GMA Gospel Hall Of Fame inductee, was born in another citadel of song, Memphis, Tennessee, in 1942, and began her musical career as a young woman of 14, singing with her father’s “gospel caravan” in churches all over the South, as he managed her nascent stardom. Franklin soon started touring with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and when the civil rights leader was assassinated in 1968, she sang tribute at his funeral.

Franklin’s long artistic journey was interwoven with the historical fabric of the Black community in the latter half of the 20th century, and she remained a powerful presence in the music industry well into modern times.

Franklin, most widely associated with her signature song, R-E-S-P-E-C-T, also recorded 88 other Billboard top hits, and won a stunning 18 Grammy awards, including eight consecutive Best Female Vocalist honors. Along the way, she opened the doors for such legends as Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, and even Rihanna, but also branched out in creative ways, pairing up with British pop star George Michael on her last No. 1 hit, I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me), and collaborating with the new-wave group Eurythmics on their song, Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves.

Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston

 

Franklin worked with or encouraged nearly every major Black artist over the six decades of her active career, and was recognized by President George W. Bush, who awarded her the Medal Of Freedom for her work in the arts, and she sang at both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama‘s initial inaugurations. The vocalist has been in attendance on every American president since Lyndon Johnson. Franklin’s name even extends to the heavens, as an asteroid is named for her, and she was designated a “national treasure” by the Michigan state legislature.

Expressions of grief have poured in from top artists, producers, and fans alike from all over the globe. In an emailed statement, Quinn wrote, “We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world.

Thank you for your compassion and prayers. We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on. As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.” Funeral arrangements, Quinn added, would be announced “in the coming days”.