R.I.P. Aretha Franklin

Jeff Terich
Aretha Franklin

The legendary Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, has died after a long battle with advanced pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type. She was 76.

“In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. 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,” says Franklin’s longtime publicist Gwendolyn Quinn in a statement, as reported via Billboard. “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.”

Franklin was a ground-breaking and highly influential artist who made a name for herself through soul music but tackled many other styles and genres, including opera. In 1987, she was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and she’s earned 18 Grammy awards throughout her lifetime.

Born in Memphis in 1942, Franklin grew up as the daughter of a reverend and a gospel singer, and began her singing career at age 14 with the release of Songs of Faith. In 1960, she signed with Columbia Records, where she began transitioning into R&B records with more of a jazz influence, making an early hit with “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody.”

In 1967, Franklin signed with Atlantic Records, where she ended up releasing many of her best known recordings. Her first single for Atlantic was “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Loved You),” recorded with producer Jerry Wexler and the Muscle Shoals session band in Alabama. She then issued a string of classic singles including “Do Right Woman – Do Right Man,” “Respect,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools” and “Think,” and remained prolific throughout the ’70s and ’80s. Franklin sang at the Presidential inaugurations of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and worked with Lauryn Hill, Andre 3000, Mary J. Blige and Tony Bennett.

Franklin had reportedly been working on new music produced by Stevie Wonder at the time of her death.

Aretha Franklin is featured on our list of the 50 Best Vocalists.

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