Detroit, Michigan, USA : An outpouring of love flooded social media following the death of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, who died Thursday morning at her home in Detroit after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, Paul McCartney, Lionel Richie, John Legend, and Carole King were just a few who paid tribute to the cultural icon.
Publicist Gwendolyn Quinn said through a family statement that Franklin passed Thursday at 9:50 a.m. at her home in Detroit. The statement said “Franklin’s official cause of death was due to advance pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin’s oncologist, Dr. Philip Phillips of Karmanos Cancer Institute” in Detroit.
Originally diagnosed with cancer in 2010, Aretha, who turned 76 in March, bravely battled back and refused to be knocked out by illness.
Franklin, 76, has dealt with numerous health issues in recent years, leading the singer to announce her retirement in February 2017.
Her last performance as on November 2, 2017 for the Elton John AIDS Foundation in New York. Her final public performance was at Philadelphia’s Mann Center in August 2017. It was a miraculous show as Aretha was already then fighting exhaustion and dehydration.
Last summer she canceled a series of concerts citing ‘doctor’s orders’.
She had revealed earlier that year that 2017 would be her final year performing.
‘I will be recording, but this will be my last year in concert,’ she announced during a Detroit radio interview that February. ‘This is it.’
The Respect icon has struggled with weight issues throughout her life, and has battled alcoholism. She was also previously a chain smoker.
While still amazingly performing into her seventies, the superstar has on occasion canceled performances for undisclosed medical treatments;
She denied reports she was battling pancreatic cancer in 2011. However all three of Aretha’s siblings fell to cancer. Her brother Cecil who was also her manager, died from lung cancer on December 1989. Her sister Carolyn died the previous year in April 1988 from breast cancer, while eldest sister Erma passed from throat cancer in September 2002.
Franklin’s career spans six decades. She got her start singing gospel music in a Detroit church where her father was the minister. In 1960, she signed with her first major record label. By 1968, Franklin was an established soul chart-topper with hits like “Respect,” “Chain of Fools” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”
That same year she was tapped to sing at the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. where she performed a stirring rendition of “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.”
Aretha was the first ever woman inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 1987; and topped Rolling Stone’s Greatest Artists Of All Time list.
Considered one of the greatest singers in music history, Franklin has won 20 Grammys throughout her career, including three special honors: the Legend Award (1991), the Lifetime Achievement Award (1994) and the MusiCares Person of the Year (2008).
She has performed at the inaugurations of three presidents: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. President George W. Bush awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.
She is also one of most commercially successful artists of all time, having sold over 75 million records worldwide.
Lionel Richie wrote, “Her voice; her presence; her style. No one did it better. Truly the Queen of Soul. I will miss you!”
King, who collaborated with Franklin and Gerry Goffin on “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” noted the iconic singer’s legacy. “So much love, respect and gratitude,” King wrote.
What a life. What a legacy! So much love, respect and gratitude. R.I.P. @ArethaFranklin — Carole King (@Carole_King) August 16, 2018
President Donald Trump opened a Cabinet meeting on Thursday by saying, “I want to begin today by expressing my condolences to the family of a person I knew well. She worked for me on numerous occasions. She was terrific — Aretha Franklin — on her passing. She brought joy to millions of lives and her extraordinary legacy will thrive and inspire many generations to come. She was given a great gift from God — her voice, and she used to well. People loved Aretha. She was a special woman. So just want to pass on my warmest best wishes and sympathies to her family.”
“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” – Paul McCartney @PaulMcCartney
Barack and Michelle Obama issued a moving tribute to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, following news of the singer’s death. In the lengthy statement, they parsed how Franklin was an integral part of America’s fiber and a reflection of the American dream.
“America has no royalty,” they wrote. “But we do have a chance to earn something more enduring. Born in Memphis and raised in Detroit, Aretha Franklin grew up performing gospel songs in her father’s congregation. For more than six decades since, every time she sang, we were all graced with a glimpse of the divine.
“Through her compositions and unmatched musicianship, Aretha helped define the American experience,” the couple continued. “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. And sometimes she helped us just feel about everything else and dance.
“Aretha may have passed on to a better place, but the gift of her music remains to inspire us all,” they concluded. “May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace. Michelle and I send our prayers and warmest sympathies to her family and all those moved by her song.”
Bill and Hillary Clinton also mourned the singer. In separate statements on Twitter, the former president and secretary of state praised the artist for the impact she’s had on their lives.
“Mourning the loss today of Aretha Franklin who shared her spirit and talent with the world,” wrote the former secretary of state. “She deserves not only our RESPECT but also our lasting gratitude for opening our eyes, ears and hearts. Rest in eternal peace, my friend.”
Barbra Streisand reminisced on a 2012 tribute celebration the two performed at together for their 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,” Streisand wrote on Instagram.
Lucky enough to have seen Aretha live exactly once, and this was it.
Thank you for the music, we will be listening to you forever — Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) August 16, 2018
The world won’t be the same without you in it.
You will always have our utmost respect. #RipArethaFranklin — Lena Waithe (@LenaWaithe) August 16, 2018
The world lost an incredibly talented woman today. Rest In Peace, @ArethaFranklin… your legacy and music will forever inspire us and future generations — Britney Spears (@britneyspears) August 16, 2018
RIP Aretha Franklin what a voice x — Liam Gallagher (@liamgallagher) August 16, 2018
There will never be another Queen of Soul. Aretha Franklin is the embodiment of a soul blessed with a special gift. Grateful we have decades of recordings that will live on. Long Live The Queen. #RIPAretha— Andy Cohen (@Andy) August 16, 2018
RIP Aretha Franklin — Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) August 16, 2018
Feeling overwhelmingly sad. Thank you Aretha Franklin for the gift of your voice and your soul. Rest in peace.— Lester Holt (@LesterHoltNBC) August 16, 2018
The wondrous chorus of America at its best has lost a powerful voice. Aretha Franklin shook the heavens and our own complacency with her spirit and by tackling life with power and purpose. #Respect— Dan Rather (@DanRather) August 16, 2018
RIP Aretha Franklin. Thank you for being the sounds of my household as a kid when my mother would clean the house. — Darren M. Haynes (@DarrenMHaynes) August 16, 2018
Breaking: Aretha Franklin is dead at the age of 76. The queen is gone. — Craig Melvin (@craigmelvin) August 16, 2018
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. — Tim Cook (@tim_cook) August 16, 2018
RIP Aretha Franklin March 25, 1942 – August 16, 2018 — Katie Couric (@katiecouric) August 16, 2018
Oh queen oh queen how I cry to see you go. Like so many others I share the sadness of this loss. A true inspiration, a constant listen in my youth. I remember going deep into her B sides and live performances, always in awe of her ability. To discover the effortlessness of her gift, to take it in and experience the tones that shaped my love for singing. Her instrument like no other. Magic, pure magic. Thank you Aretha. A post shared by Kate Hudson (@katehudson) on Aug 16, 2018 at 7:28am PDT
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 — Missy Elliott (@MissyElliott) August 16, 2018
One of the greatest highlights of my career was singing with the extraordinary #arethafranklin on The Tony Awards. It was an out of body experience. One of the greatest singers of all time.A post shared by Hugh Jackman (@thehughjackman) on Aug 16, 2018 at 9:46am PDT
Some Aretha Franklin’s Songs
Soul found its apotheosis in Aretha Franklin. Ever since she was crowned “The Queen of Soul” in 1967 by DJ Pervis Spann in a mock ceremony at the Regal Theater in Chicago, no one has come close to contesting the title. Ms. Franklin — who died Thursday at 76 — sang in a voice that struck an ideal balance of strength and sensitivity, of roiling emotion and refined skill. Even when she hit a note with terrific force, her tone never lost its beauty. And each note brought with it a huge context. “American history wells up when Aretha sings,” President Obama wrote in an email to The New Yorker’s David Remnick for a 2016 profile of the star. “Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R&B, rock ’n’ roll — the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope.”
Ms. Franklin had the ability to make songs previously identified with other singers her own, and to write original pieces others pined to cover. While she made hundreds of indelible songs in her six-decade-long recording career, these 20 rank among her most defining.
During her six years at Columbia Records, Ms. Franklin’s vocal talent often overshadowed the arrangements and production in her recordings. Yet an alternate take she cut of the Johnny Mercer/Hoagy Carmichael standard from 1941 not only showed a side nowhere heard in her prime Atlantic catalog, it found special strains of soul in this oft-covered song.
“I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” (1967)
Ms. Franklin’s first single for Atlantic Records became her breakthrough hit, cracking the Top 10 while announcing the arrival of a singer of revelatory confidence, openness and fortitude. Building on Spooner Oldham’s electric piano, her vocal escalated to a crescendo that stands as one of the greatest pop showstoppers of all time.
“Do Right Woman — Do Right Man” (1967)
This song’s sensitive country-gospel melody brought out one of the singer’s most nuanced performances. A proto-feminist anthem, “Woman” aimed to create gender parity not only though the lyrics, but through the deep humanity in her vocal.
Otis Redding may have written the song (and had a Top 40 hit with it), but Ms. Franklin’s No. 1 version will forever define it. The assurance, wit and erudition of her vocal embodied R-E-S-P-E-C-T to such a resounding degree, the recording went on to become one of pop’s most stirring anthems of both feminism and black pride.
“Chain of Fools” (1967)
Over the tense tremolo of Joe South’s guitar, Ms. Franklin unleashed all the frustrations of a woman ignored, while at the same time turning her pain into power. The breakdown in the middle — when Aretha soars over the “whoop-whoop” refrain of her backup singers, the Sweet Inspirations — showed just who in this romantic relationship would end up on top.
“(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” (1967)
Written expressly for her by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, “Natural Woman” inspired in the singer a vocal that transcended the individual to address an entire gender. Above gospel piano chords from Mr. Oldham, and strings that moved from encouraging to ecstatic, Aretha unleashed a vocal infused with such certitude and spirit, it seemed to distill the essence of whatever it may mean to be a woman.
“Dr. Feelgood (Love Is a Serious Business)” (1967)
Ms. Franklin mined her deep gospel roots in a song she wrote with her then-husband, Ted White. Slyly, she married the churchy organ and piano to what may be her most sexually alive lyric.
Ms. Franklin helped write one of her most fast and furious recordings. Its brisk piano chords and buoyant beats created a kind of trampoline for the star to bounce off refrains of Olympic skill. The secret weapon came in the middle when, lifted ably by her backup singers, she soared the word “freedom” straight to the sky.
“I Say a Little Prayer” (1968)
Six months after Dionne Warwick’s graceful take on the Bacharach-David song became a smash, Aretha released a very different version. The inventive arrangement laid down a kind of dare. The support singers sometimes took the lead, while the star tersely answered, smartly reversing the entire history of call-and-response vocal relationships. Naturally, Ms. Franklin was more than up to the challenge, topping her sturdy Inspirations with each vocal rejoinder.
“Don’t Play That Song” (1970)
The star’s distinctive piano work ignited the piece, which had been a hit eight years earlier for Ben E. King. Ms. Franklin’s take featured a vocal that expressed equal parts righteous accusation and hard need.
“Spirit in the Dark” (1970)
Written by Ms. Franklin, the song tapped into the rich history of spirituals, setting the scene for one of her most elaborate interplays with the Sweet Inspirations.
Aretha Franklin wasn’t just a vocal genius. She was a model of empowerment and pride.
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” (1971)
You’d think Simon and Garfunkel would forever own a song they had turned into the No. 1 hit of 1970. But just one year later, Ms. Franklin brought “Bridge” back to the Top 10 in a version that plumbed the rich gospel roots the folk duo could only hint at.
“Spanish Harlem” (1971)
While Ben E. King’s original, Top 10 take on the song had a romantic air and a faithful Latin lilt, Ms. Franklin turned it into a rumbling, funk-rock rave-up. Her interpretation got all the way to No. 2, along the way changing King’s vocal emphasis to, instead, revel in Harlem’s blackness.
“Rock Steady” (1971)
The funky guitar and bass that fire the song, written by Ms. Franklin, shows just how hard her vocals could ride a rhythm, making for one of her most danceable smashes.
“Day Dreaming” (1972)
The melody, penned by the singer, brought out her most contemplative side. Her gliding vocal paired ideally with Hubert Laws’s fluttering flute.
“Young, Gifted and Black” (1972)
Written by Nina Simone for the playwright Lorraine Hansberry, the song received its most emphatic interpretation on Ms. Franklin’s album of the same name. Accompanying herself on piano, the star’s soaring vocal idealized the song’s mission to encourage all manner of black achievement.
“Amazing Grace” (1972)
Ms. Franklin’s debt to gospel was paid in full on her double-album masterpiece, recorded live with the Southern California Community Choir. The 10-minute-plus title track entered the realm of heaven in the first two minutes and never left. Housed on the biggest-selling gospel album of all time, the recording may be Ms. Franklin’s most profound.
“Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” (1973)
Written by Morris Broadnax, Clarence Paul and Stevie Wonder, “Come Back” has a melody built to show Ms. Franklin’s most sensual side. With care, she caressed every part of the song’s snaking tune.
“Freeway of Love” (1985)
Part of her big comeback, via Arista Records, “Freeway” tapped Ms. Franklin’s Detroit roots to create one of the great American anthems of automotive freedom. It was motored not only by her vivacious vocal but by Clarence Clemons’s surging sax.
“I Knew You Were Waiting (for Me)” (1987)
The star’s final No. 1 song (and her only No. 1 in Britain), this duet with George Michael transcended its slickness with a tune that let both singers shine. Still, it’s not exactly a contest who, in the end, out-sung who.