DETROIT, MI — Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul” whose personality and rich soulful voice transcended popular music genres and touched countless generations of music lovers, has died. She was 76. The cause of death was advanced pancreatic cancer.
Publicist Gwendolyn Quinn tells The Associated Press through a family statement that Franklin died Thursday at 9:50 a.m. at her home in Detroit. The statement said “Franklin’s 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.
Her family issued a statement Thursday morning:
“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.
“We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world. Thank you for your compassion and prayers. We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on. As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.”
Funeral arrangements will be announced soon.
The legendary Motown singer was born March 25, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee. At the age of 2, she moved to Detroit, where her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, became pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church, where she began singing in the gospel choir.
While she may have started singing in church, Franklin’s musical career ultimately transcended nearly every genre of popular music, from soul and R&B to rock and roll. Her early influences includes the leading ladies of jazz and blues, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughn. She also drew much inspiration from Nat King Cole, Sam Cooke and Ray Charles.
She got her start in the music business in 1960, when she was signed to Columbia Records, but had lackluster success. She hit it big in 1967 after signing with Atlantic Records and delivered the album, I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You, which contained the classic hits “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” and possibly her biggest hit ever, “Respect,” which was written by Otis Redding but re-arranged by Franklin.
“Respect” has been hailed as a civil rights and feminist anthem.
On Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of all-time, Franklin is listed at No. 9, just ahead for Ray Charles at No. 10. The magazine noted that in her career, “she never went to the wrong place.”
“It wasn’t her gospel training. Most young African-American singers get their musical training in church,” according to Rolling Stone. “Training can give you form, can give you tradition, can give you the cadence. When genius gets good training, it can expedite the process, but training isn’t genius. Genius is who she is.”
Franklin had her fair share of up and downs. Rolling Stone reported that she came from a broken family and had at least one bad marriage. She struggled with alcohol and experienced both medical and musical direction issues, something fellow artists picked up on in her singing.
“In her voice, you can hear the redemption and the pain, the yearning and the surrender, all at the same time,” singer Bonnie Raitt told Rolling Stone in 2003.
She was one of five children, but her parents split when she was just six years old, according to Rolling Stone. Her mother moved to Buffalo.
In 1978, Franklin married actor Glynn Turman in Los Angeles. But just a year later she returned to her hometown after burglars shot her father, leaving him semi-comatose. He died in 1984, the same year she and Turman divorced.
In her 76 years, she has been a constant performing and pop culture icon. It was not until earlier this year that she canceled concerts when her doctor ordered her to get rest. Last year, she announced she had planned to retire and only perform at select events. Her last performance was in November at the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
In 1987, Franklin was the first woman inducted into the the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Franklin has won 18 Grammy and sold some 8.8 million records, according to Billboard magazine. She has 73 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 – the most of any female artist, according to the music industry magazine.
“Music is my thing, it’s who I am. I’m in it for the long run,” she told The Associated Press in 2008. “I’ll be around, singing, ‘What you want, baby I got it.’ Having fun all the way.”
Photo: In this Feb. 11, 2011 file photo, Aretha Franklin smiles after the Detroit Pistons-Miami Heat NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich. Franklin is seriously ill, according to a person close to the singer. The person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not allowed to publicly talk about the topic, told The Associated Press on Monday, Aug. 13, 2018, that Franklin is seriously ill. No more details were provided. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
Patch’s Dan Hampton contributed to this story. Information also came from the Associated Press.