A publicist for Aretha Franklin confirms that the Queen of Soul passed away peacefully in her sleep Thursday morning. She was 76.
Franklin’s health issues in recent weeks had become a major topic of discussion as the iconic singer was reportedly “gravely ill.” The official cause of death was pancreatic cancer per a statement from Franklin’s publicist, Gwendolyn Quinn. Her death followed numerous reports of health complications throughout the years.
The Queen of Soul’s legacy is unmatched in popular music. She was the first woman, regardless of color to ever be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and won over 18 Grammy Awards during her career. First emerging as a singer in the late 1950s, Franklin’s career exploded in the 1960s and ’70s with timeless singles such as “Respect,” “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman” and was saluted by Presidents and dignitaries alike.
Her friendship with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was crystalized in 1968 when she was asked to sing at his funeral. Her performance of “Precious Lord” at King’s funeral is as memorable as any other. She also sung at President Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009. Her fear of flying led her to tour exclusively via bus whereas other musicians flew to performances.
Born in Memphis on March 25, 1942, Aretha Louise Franklin was born to a minister who was a gospel singer and a mother who was also a gospel singer. She moved to Detroit when she was young, ultimately making it her permanent home and at the age of 18, she released her debut album The Great Aretha Franklin in 1960. From that year on, Franklin crafted classic albums, became a vocal proponent of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and over time collected numerous accolades and her most befitting title: The Queen of Soul.
Last year, Franklin announced her retirement from stage. “I must tell you, I am retiring this year,” she said last February. “I feel very, very enriched and satisfied with respect to where my career came from and where it is now. I’ll be pretty much satisfied, but I’m not going to go anywhere and just sit down and do nothing. That wouldn’t be good either.”
Franklin was married twice, including to actor Glynn Turman. She is survived by all four of her sons – Clarence, Edward, Ted White, Jr. and Kecalf Cunningham – and died while she was around an army of family and friends.