Aretha Franklin, whose gospel-rooted singing and bluesy yet expansive delivery earned her the title “the Queen of Soul,” has died, a family statement said Thursday. She was 76.
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Aretha Franklin — the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, dubbed the Queen of Soul for powerful anthems like "Respect" and "Chain of Fools" — died on Thursday at her home in Detroit. She was 76 years old. The singer's publicist confirmed the news to the Associated Press. Earlier this week, members of her family had told NBC affiliate WDIV-TV in Detroit that she was "gravely ill." The station reported that Franklin had asked for prayers. Born March 25, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee, to C.L. Franklin, the most prominent black Baptist preacher in America during the mid-20th century, and a gospel singer, Aretha Louise Franklin began performing in front of her father's congregation at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, which she considered her hometown. She became a star on gospel caravan tours with her father, a compelling preacher known as "The Million Dollar Voice," who became her manager when she was 14. Franklin released her first album, "Songs of Faith," in 1956, scoring regional hits with two gospel songs and occasionally touring with The Soul Stirrers, whose star was Sam Cooke. In 1960, Franklin followed Cooke into secular music, recording a handful of Top 10 hits on the R&B charts. It took seven years and a switch of labels, to Atlantic Records, however, for her career to fully blossom in 1967, beginning with "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)," which hit No. 1 on the R&B charts and gave her first Top 10 pop single. That April saw the release of "Respect," a cover of an Otis Redding song with a feminist bent and an irresistible hook — the simple spelling "R-E-S-P-E-C-T," which Franklin added. It quickly rocketed to No. 1 on the pop charts. Rolling Stone magazine later declared it the fifth-greatest song of all time. The song became a soundtrack for both the civil rights and female-empowerment movements, and no one was more surprised by its success than Franklin herself. "I was stunned when it went to number one," Franklin told Elle Magazine in April 2016. #RIP #ArethaFranklin
Franklin died at 9:50 a.m. at her home in Detroit, surrounded by family and friends, according to a statement on behalf of Franklin’s family from her longtime publicist Gwendolyn Quinn.
The “official cause of death was due to advanced 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.
“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,” Franklin’s family said.
“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.”
Funeral arrangements will be announced in the coming days, the statement said.