DETROIT, Aug 17, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Aretha Franklin, the music icon,
legendary singer and “Queen of Soul” loved by millions whose history-making
career spanned six decades, died at her Detroit home on Thursday. She was 76.
She influenced generations of female singers with unforgettable hits
including “Respect” (1967), “Natural Woman” (1968) and “I Say a Little
The multiple Grammy winner cemented her place in US music history with a
powerful, bell-clear voice that stretched over four octaves. In a career
crossing generations, her hits spanned from soul and R&B, to gospel and pop.
After a long battle with pancreatic cancer, Franklin passed away at 9:50 am
(1350 GMT) surrounded by her family and loved ones, her family said in a
statement issued by her publicist.
“It is with deep and profound sadness that we announce the passing of
Aretha Louise Franklin, the Queen of Soul,” the statement said.
“We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family. The love she had for
her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds.”
The family thanked fans around the world for their “incredible outpouring
of love” since it first emerged earlier this week that she was gravely ill.
Fans mourning the death of Franklin left balloons, flowers and mementos at
Detroit’s New Bethel Baptist Church, where as a child the star kicked off her
storied career singing gospel.
Reverend Charles Turner described her passing as a “Great loss — can’t
nobody replace her,” adding that the grief felt by mourners was akin to the
loss of a parent.
And in California similar tributes quickly amassed on Franklin’s star on
the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The 18-time Grammy award winner inspired multiple singers during her five-
decade career, from pop diva Mariah Carey and the late Whitney Houston, to
Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige and the late Amy Winehouse.
– ‘National treasure’ –
In 1987, she became the first woman ever inducted into the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame. In 2010, Rolling Stone magazine put her at the top of its list
of the 100 greatest singers of all time, male or female.
She performed at the inaugurations of presidents Bill Clinton and Barack
Obama, singing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” at the investiture of the country’s
first African-American head of state.
In a heartfelt tribute from the Obamas, the former president and his wife
Michelle praised Franklin’s “unmatched musicianship,” which they said “helped
define the American experience.”
“Every time she sang, we were all graced with a glimpse of the divine,” the
Obamas said in a statement. “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. She helped us feel more
connected to each other, more hopeful, more human.”
US President Donald Trump called the singer “terrific,” saying she “brought
joy to millions of lives and her extraordinary legacy will thrive and inspire
many generations to come.”
Clinton and his wife, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, on
Thursday hailed her as “one of America’s greatest national treasures.”
Singers and musicians quickly flooded social media in mourning her passing,
which came on the same day that fellow US music giant Elvis Presley died at
his home in Memphis, the city where Franklin was born, 41 years ago.
Paul McCartney called Franklin an inspiration and “the Queen of our souls,”
while Diana Ross hailed her “wonderful golden spirit.”
– ‘Unmatched’ –
Franklin — who was widely known by only her first name, in true diva style
— rose from singing gospel in her father’s church to regularly topping
rhythm and blues and pop charts in the 1960s and 1970s.
Other than “Respect,” her powerful cover of the Otis Redding tune that
became a feminist anthem and her calling card, Franklin had dozens of Top 40
singles, according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Other hits include “Day Dreaming” (1972), “Jump to It” (1982), “Freeway of
Love” (1985), and “A Rose Is Still A Rose” (1998). A 1986 duet with George
Michael, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” hit number one in several
Franklin’s declining health was first disclosed on the Showbiz 411 website
late Sunday by Roger Friedman, a reporter and family friend.
The Detroit News later reported that she was in hospice care, as artists
from across the musical spectrum offered well wishes to the singer who lived
in Detroit — the Motor City, home of Motown — most of her life.
In 2005, Franklin was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the
highest award for an American civilian — by then-president George W. Bush.
In 2010, she suffered serious health problems, but continued to perform
until late last year, singing last in November 2017 for the Elton John AIDS
Foundation in New York. That same year, Detroit named a street after her.