Aretha Franklin has died at the age of 76.
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 22: Singer Aretha Franklin attends her birthday celebration at the Ritz Carlton Hotel on March 22, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Stewart/WireImage)
Ain’t no way: Aretha Franklin, the undisputed Queen of Soul and the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame died on August 16, of pancreatic cancer, according to a statement from her family. She was 76. A publicist told the Associated Press that Franklin died at her home in Detroit. At the induction ceremony in 1987, Franklin—whose hits included “Chain of Fools,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Think,” and “I Say a Little Prayer”—was recognized as “a singer of great passion and control whose finest recordings define the term soul music in all its deep, expressive glory.”
Franklin’s family provided a statement to the Associated Press, which read in part:
“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.”
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Steeped in gospel, Franklin was “a gift from God,” Mary J. Blige rhapsodized in a 2010 tribute in Rolling Stone magazine, which ranked Franklin No. 1 on its list of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time.” Marianne Faithfull went one further: “The voice of God, if you must know, is Aretha Franklin’s.”
2017 marked the 50th anniversary of her signing with Atlantic Records, for which she would record a string of iconic hits and definitive performances. Her cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect” transformed his soul classic into an anthem of female empowerment. In 2002 it was inducted into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress. It became so associated with Franklin that, introducing it at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, Redding said, “This next song is a song that a girl took away from me.”
Franklin’s accolades alone could fill this page. She was an 18-time Grammy winner. Before being surpassed by Nicki Minaj in 2017, she held the record for the most appearances by a female artist (73) on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. She was the first woman to have 100 entries on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop songs chart with her 2014 interpretation of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.”
She is a Kennedy Center honoree. President George W. Bush awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. An asteroid was named after her in 2014. She performed for Pope Francis and at the presidential inaugurations of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, where her rendition of “My Country ’Tis of Thee”—and her beribboned gray flannel hat—broke the Internet (the hat was put on display at the Smithsonian Institution).
“You can hear Aretha’s influence across the landscape of American music, no matter the genre,” Obama told David Remnick for a 2016 New Yorker profile. “What other artist has had that kind of impact? . . . It’s a short list.”
Franklin was born on March 25, 1942. She was the daughter of minister C. L. Franklin, and as a child sang in his church. Franklin took her cue from Sam Cooke in crossing over to the secular market. In 1960, legendary producer John Hammond signed her to Columbia Records. While she recorded some pop and R&B hits for the label, it was not until she signed with Atlantic in 1967 that she was allowed to put her personal stamp on her music. Her first Atlantic album, I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You), “may stand as the greatest single soul album of all time,” proclaimed the Rolling Stone Record Guide. Her 1972 live E.P., Amazing Grace, was the best-selling of her career.
“I don’t think there’s anybody I have known who . . . has such a thorough background in gospel, the blues, and the essential black-music idiom,” Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun, once said. “She is blessed with an extraordinary combination of remarkable urban sophistication and of the deep blues feeling . . . the result is maybe the greatest singer of our time.”
Franklin had a turbulent private life. She had two sons before her 17th birthday. Her eight-year marriage to her then-manager Ted White, ended in divorce in 1969. Their son, Teddy Jr., was a guitarist in her band (She had a fourth child, Kecalf, in 1970 with her road manager, Ken Cunningham). In 1979, burglars shot Franklin’s father in his home and he remained in a coma until his death in 1984. A second marriage, to actor Glynn Turman, also ended in divorce.
Her career had resurgence in the 1980s with her appearance in The Blues Brothers and continued with her 1985 album, Who’s Zoomin’ Who, which yielded three hit songs. A 1986 pop-oriented follow-up, Aretha, included her Grammy-winning chart-topping duet with George Michael, “I Knew You Were Waiting (for Me).” At the 1998 Grammy Awards, she astonished audiences anew by subbing at the last minute for an ailing Luciano Pavarotti to perform the operatic aria “Nessun Dorma.”
Franklin did not suffer perceived slights to her royalty-diva status. At the 2008 Grammy Awards, Beyoncé introduced Tina Turner as “the Queen.” Franklin proclaimed it a “cheap shot for controversy.”
For decades, Franklin, who was afraid to fly, only traveled by tour bus. She had canceled several concerts in recent years, including an appearance at the Toronto Jazz Festival in June 2017. In November of that year, following yet another round of rumors surrounding undisclosed health issues, Franklin said in an e-mail to Us Weekly that she was “doing well generally, all tests have come back good. I’ve lost a lot of weight due to side effects of medicine.”
But as Billy Preston once said, as it was noted in the Remnick profile, “On any given night, when that lady sits down at the piano and gets her body and soul all over some righteous song . . . you’ll know—you’ll swear—that she’s still the best fuckin’ singer this fucked-up country has ever produced.” Check out her peerless 2015 performance at the Kennedy Center Honors when she performed “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” Honoree Carole King, who wrote the song, was unaware Franklin would perform and looks like she will fall out of the balcony in her rapture. President Obama, in the audience, was moved to tears. She told Remnick it was “one of the three or four greatest nights of my life.”
In a March 2017 Detroit TV interview, Franklin, who had just turned 75, said that it would be her “last year in concert,” though she still planned to record. She allowed that she was “satisfied with respect to where my career came from and where it is now.” ……vanityfair.com