Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, 76, died Thursday morning at her Detroit home surrounded by family and friends.
Franklin had been battling pancreatic cancer for years and in 2017 announced a retirement from touring. In recent weeks, Franklin had been admitted to hospice care. In past days, it was reported the singer was “gravely ill” and visitors including Stevie Wonder and the Rev. Jesse Jackson reportedly paid their respects at her bedside. Beyonce and Jay Z dedicated their Monday concert in Detroit to Franklin.
Franklin was born in Memphis on March 25, 1942. Her family moved to Detroit when she was 5 years old, and her mother, Barbara, died shortly before Franklin’s 10th birthday. Her father, Clarence LaVaughn “C. L.” Franklin, was a famous preacher at Detroit’s New Bethel Baptist Church, and his home was subsequently frequented by celebrity guests like Martin Luther King Jr., Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, and Mahalia Jackson, the latter of whom pitched in helping to raise Aretha and her siblings after Barbara’s death. Franklin began singing solos and playing the piano at New Bethel Baptist Church as a child prodigy.
Franklin was a mother of two by the time she was 14 years old, giving birth to her first son, Clarence, when she was 12, and welcoming a second son, Edward, two years later. (She gave birth to two other sons, Teddy Richards and Kecalf Cunningham, in 1964 and 1970.) Franklin then launched her professional gospel singing career at age 14. Her father managed her career, and she released her first album, Songs of Faith, in 1956. At the age of 18, she switched to secular soul music.
Franklin signed to Atlantic Records in 1967 and made major hits including “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” which became her first top 10 Billboard hit. Two months later, she followed up with her famous cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect,” which went to No. 1 on both the R&B and pop charts. Her cover of Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” became another Top 10 hit. The following year in 1968, Franklin had won her first two Grammys and graced the cover of Time magazine.
The 70s brought a stall in her career, but her ionic performance in The Blues Brothers movie brought it back to an upswing when she signed with Clive Davis’s Arista Records where she released Her 1985 album, Who’s Zoomin’ Who?. The album went platinum on the strength of the hits “Freeway of Love,” the Eurythmics collaboration “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves,” and the title track; her 1986 duet with George Michael, “I Knew You Were Waiting for Me,” went to No. 1 in eight countries.
In 1998, Franklin experienced another career comeback with the gold-selling A Rose Is Still a Rose (the title track of which was produced by Lauryn Hill) and with her spectacular “Nessun Dorma” performance at that year’s Grammy Awards, filling in at the last minute for the ailing Luciano Pavarotti.
Funeral arrangements will be announced in the coming days.
Rest in power to the Queen of Soul!