Aretha Franklin dies in Detroit, surrounded by family and friends

Bessie Dean
August 17, 2018

"As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy during this hard time", the family's statement continued.

Funeral arrangements for the singer have not yet been announced. She was 76 years old. She created a uniquely emotional and powerful voice that put her at the forefront of 1960s soul music along with Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and Wilson Pickett. She would return to the nation's capitol in 2009 with a show-stopping rendition of "My Country Tis of Thee" for the inauguration of president Obama.

As news of Franklin's delicate health and photos of her drastic weight loss started to make headlines, fans were saddened, but understood her need to prioritize her health.

Personal problems and an ill-advised foray into disco made for a less successful 1970s, though she continued to perform extensively.

Aretha's ascension as the assertive and uncompromising Queen of Soul, scoring ten hits in 18 months, reflected a new-found pride and confidence within the black American community that their voice was finally being heard. Franklin's phrasing at the beginning of "Prayer" is fleet and lilting, like stones skipping across a lake; by the end, her vocal lines have become one long, cool skim, as if she's coming in for a landing, heading straight for the home waiting for her at the end of the song.

"Over the next few years, Franklin would experience an unprecedented amount of success, with songs like "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man", "(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman", "Chain of Fools" and "I Say a Little Prayer" becoming iconic parts of her catalog and earning her the sobriquet that would stick with her for the rest of her career.

Along the way Franklin inspired a generation of singers. "American history wells up when Aretha sings". In 2008 Beyonce introduced Tina Turner as "the queen" at the Grammy Awards ceremony, which Franklin decried as "a cheap shot" at her.

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Franklin was born in the United States city of Memphis, Tennessee, to gospel singer parents Clarence and Barbara on March 25, 1942.

Her biggest hit, "Respect", became an anthem of the civil rights and women's movements. "Fortunately, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder raised their game in response, which is just one example of how Aretha changed the rules, forever".

Franklin is survived by her four sons, Clarence, Edward, Ted and Kecalf.

She released an album of duets with Houston, Carey and Blige in 2007 and covered Adele, Barbara Streisand and Sinead O'Connor tunes for the 2014 album Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics. "Our hearts go out to her family and her countless fans". She did not attend either. Instead, she traveled in a customized bus. In 2016, she booked a show in Sarasota — it would have been her first local gig in more than a decade — only to cancel due to what the venue called "a lack of band personnel".

Years in the limelight had dimmed her capacity to be overawed though, it appeared. Her last live performance was November 7, 2017, for the Elton John AIDS Foundation gala.

It was closely followed up by an adapted cover of Otis Redding's classic hit Respect, which went to number one in the USA and made the United Kingdom top ten. It was clear her and her mother both had a similar quality to their voices - the genetics were just unbelievable.

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