DETROIT, MI—Aretha Franklin, the ‘Queen of Soul,’ known for hit numbers like “Respect” and “Natural Woman” passed away Thursday, August 16 at her Detroit home at 9:50 a.m.
“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,” Franklin’s family said in a statement released to the Associated Press. “The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds.”
Franklin’s death was a result of her eight-year-long battle with pancreatic cancer. It was reported on Monday that the singer was hospitalized in a “gravely ill” state and her family was preparing for the worst. Franklin’s last live performance was for the Elton John AIDS Foundation in New York on November 2, 2017.
Before she became the undisputed Queen of Soul, Franklin was born in Memphis, Tennessee on March 25, 1942. Her mother, Barbara and father, C.L., were both singers. In 1944, the family moved to Detroit, Michigan.
Growing up, Franklin developed her musical skills by playing the piano and singing in her father’s church choir. By age 14, she gave birth to the first of her four sons, Clarence and released “Songs of Faith,” her first album. Two years later, Franklin gave birth to her second son, Edward.
At 18, she moved to New York, where she met Columbia Records’ John Hammond. In 1961, she released “Rock-a-bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody” and gave birth to her third son, Teddy Jr. It wasn’t until she worked with Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records where Franklin defined her voice.
At Atlantic Records, Franklin produced “I Never Loved A Man (the Way I Love You),” which brought her back to her gospel origins and became her first million-seller. In 1967, Franklin released “Respect,” her iconic cover of Otis Redding’s number of the same title.
Franklin’s personal life, though kept private by the singer, included two arrests, an abusive relationship with Ted White, and a developing alcohol problem. She continued to produce hits like her 1972 album, “Amazing Grace,” which became the best-selling gospel album of all time.
Before the fame of disco in the 80s, Franklin spent years touring across the globe in Europe and Latin America. Releasing “Jump to It” and “Freeway of Love,” she was back in the music scene under the music label, Arista.
In 1987, Franklin made history by becoming the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Though her popularity from the 60s and 80s proved unparalleled in the coming decades, Franklin remained the Queen of Soul for generations to come. In 2005, President George W. Bush presented Franklin with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and in 2009, she performed at President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration.
During the past decade, Franklin cancelled appearances and shows citing health issues. Franklin is survived by her four sons.