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.
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 advance 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.
The singer had been reported to be in failing health for years and appeared frail in recent photos, but she kept her struggles private. In February 2017, Franklin announced she would stop touring, but she continued to book concerts. Earlier this year, she canceled a pair of performances, including at the New Orleans Jazz Fest, on doctor’s orders, according to Rolling Stone.
The singer’s final public performance was last November, when she sang at an Elton John AIDS Foundation gala in New York.
Over the course of a professional career that spanned more than half a century, Franklin’s songs not only topped the charts but became part of the vernacular.
She made “Respect,” written by Otis Redding, a call to arms. “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” a Carole King song, was an earthy expression of sexuality. “Think,” which she wrote with her then-husband, Ted White, became a rallying cry for women fed up with loutish men.
The first woman admitted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she had 88 Billboard chart hits during the rock era, tops among female vocalists. At the peak of her career — from 1967 to 1975 — she had more than two dozen Top 40 hits.
“Aretha Franklin is not only the definitive female soul singer of the Sixties,” according to her Rolling Stone biography, “she’s also one of the most influential and important voices in pop history.”
She won 18 Grammy awards, including the honor for best female R&B performance for eight straight years.
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