Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul, dies at 76

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WASHINGTON — Aretha Franklin, “The Queen of Soul,” died Thursday morning at her Detroit home, a family statement said Thursday. She was 76.

Franklin died at 9:50 a.m. EDT surrounded by family and friends, according to a statement released on behalf of Franklin’s family from her publicist, Gwendolyn Quinn. The  Queen of Soul died on the same day that the King – Elvis Presley died in 1977.

The “official cause of death was due to advance[d] pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin’s oncologist, Dr. Philip Phillips of Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit,” the family statement said.

Her death comes three days after a source close to Franklin told CNN anchor Don Lemon that she was in hospice care at her home. Franklin was a former chain smoker who quit in 1992.

With her distinctive four-octave voice, Franklin was one of America’s most influential singers. Like many soul singers, her roots were in gospel music. She started performing as a child in the Detroit church where he father, the well-known Rev. C.L. Franklin, was the minister. At 14, she began touring with her father and performed at churches across the country. She signed her first record deal in 1956.

In 2011 Rolling Stone put her name as No. 1 on its list of the “Greatest Singers of All Time.” In 2013, the magazine again ranked her first on its list of the “100 Greatest Singers.”

Through the decades, Franklin effortlessly segued through different genres of music — from gospel to soul to pop to disco — and always stayed relevant. She even performed opera, filling in for Lucianao Pavriotti to perform the Puccini aria “Nessun Dorma” at the 1998 Grammy Awards with only a few minutes’ notice.

Some of her most acclaimed songs are “Respect,” “Think,” “Chain of Fools,” “Spanish Harlem,” “You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman)” and “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do). “Respect” recorded in 1967 became an anthem to the Civil Right’s Movement.


She provided the soundtrack to the civil rights movement in the 1960s. She became a respected activist and sang at the funeral of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.

Aretha Franklin’s rendition of “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee'” during President Barack Obama’s inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 20, 2009 captivated the nation. (Cecilio Ricardo/U.S. Air Force)Franklin went on to sell over 75 million records and win 16 Grammy awards. In 1987, she became the first female performer to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In addition to her perhaps unparalleled influence on social justice issues and music, Franklin was a big influence on fashion and hairstyles  especially in the 1960s and 1970s, when she sported miniskirts and wore her hair in an Afro. She later became known for her fur coats, which she often wore onstage, and her flamboyant hats.

Her unusual gray hat, which featured a giant bow, received almost as much attention as her stirring rendition of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” at President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009. She received national acclaim for her performance, which was a highlight of her career.

Franklin often performed patriotic songs. She brought Attorney General Eric Holder to tears when she sang “America the Beautiful” at his farewell ceremony in 2015, attended by Obama, where Holder’s official portrait was unveiled.

She brought Obama to tears when she honored at the Kennedy Center Honors, singing — and playing the piano  “You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman)” in 2015. She later expressed surprise when that performance boosted her popularity, even though she had been singing the Carole King song for more than 40 years.

In 2005, President George W. Bush presented Franklin with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House.

Franklin was divorced twice, most recently in 1984 when her marriage to actor Glynn Turman officially ended. She is survived by four sons and other relatives. Funeral arrangements are pending.

This article is republished with permission from Talk Media News.