Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” died Thursday morning at her home in Detroit. She was 76. According to a statement issued by the family’s publicist, Franklin died of pancreatic cancer. “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,” the family’s statement continued, “We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family.” The legendary singer also inspired countless others over her celebrated career as the “Queen of Soul.”
Franklin was born on March 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee to C.L. Franklin, a minister, and Barbara Siggers Franklin, a gospel singer. She began her career as singing in her father’s choir before launching an independent musical career at the age of 18. She achieved national acclaim starting in 1966 with a string of iconic songs, including “Respect,” “Chain of Fools,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman,” “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You,” and “I Say a Little Prayer.” Heartfelt, catchy, and powerful, “Respect” became an anthem for the both feminists and the civil rights movement.
In 1987, Aretha Franklin became the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, followed by the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and the U.K. Music Hall of Fame. She went on to win 18 Grammy Awards, culminating in a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement in 1994, three American Music Awards, three NAACP Image Awards, the Kennedy Center Honors, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. She performed at Obama’s Inauguration in January 2009.
Aretha Franklin was not only a musical prodigy and amazing voice, but a true rock for countless listeners and fans over the decades. America has lost a musical legend and a great woman.