Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” has died following a battle with pancreatic cancer and what has been described as years of poor health. In the week before she passed away, the “Respect” singer has reportedly been placed in hospice care in her hometown of Detroit, Michigan.
On Thursday, August 16, her publicist confirmed to the Associated Press that Franklin had passed away. Per a family statement cited by CNN:
“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.
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 reportedly died while surrounded by her loved ones, and after receiving an outpour of support from the public and celebrities like Jay-Z and Beyoncé, who dedicated their Detroit On the Run II concert to the late singer.
Franklin’s iconic career began in her father’s Detroit church, where she sang gospel music and played the piano, before she shifted to R&B and soul music and rose to the top of the charts. Her first album was a joint effort with her father and two sisters, produced with Gotham Records in 1956. Four years later, she moved to New York, signed with Columbia Records, and released her first solo album. Her voice was deemed a natural resource in her home state, and earned her 18 Grammy’s for songs like “Chain of Fools,” “A Natural Woman,” and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing. She also earned a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame–she was the first woman inducted–and she was the youngest person to receive a Kennedy Center Honor at the time. Oh, and another thing: Franklin was named the greatest singer of all time by Rolling Stone.
For some, she was also known for her well-earned diva credentials. Just last year, Franklin sent a fax (!) to the Associated Press to clarify singer Dionne Warwick’s mistake in naming Franklin as Whitney Houston’s godmother. Not one to let anyone fudge her biography, Franklin told them Dionne had libeled her. On once occasion, she reportedly stopped in the middle of performing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” during a concert to tell the house to turn down the AC. And, well, her thoughts on many other musical artists speak for themselves
She had released 51—yes, fifty one—albums over the years, and her last record, “A Brand New Me,” came out in 2017. More than 100 of her singles landed on the Billboard charts. In the same year, she announced she would no longer perform. Still, when she announced her retirement, Franklin said she wasn’t going to sit around doing nothing and added, “I feel very, very enriched and satisfied with respect to where my career came from and where it is now.” Her last known performance was a private gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation in November 2017.