Detroit: Legendary singer Aretha Franklin, who got the epithet ‘Queen of Soul’, died here on Thursday after battling serious health conditions. She was 76. Franklin died at 9:50 a.m. at her home here, surrounded by family and friends, according to a statement on behalf of Franklin’s family from her longtime publicist Gwendolyn Quinn, reported CNN.
The “official cause of death was due to advance pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type”, the family statement said. Franklin, a 17-time Grammy Award-winner, was diagnosed with cancer in 2010, and delivered her last performance at the Elton John AIDS Foundation party in New York last November.
“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,” Franklin’s family said.
“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 in the coming days, the statement said, according to CNN. The singer had been reported to be in failing health for years and appeared frail in recent photos. In February 2017, Franklin announced she would stop touring, but she continued to book concerts. Earlier this year, she cancelled 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. Franklin released her first album, “Songs of Faith,” in 1956, scoring regional hits with two gospel songs and occasionally touring with The Soul Stirrers, whose star was Sam Cooke.
In a professional career that spanned more than half a century, Franklin’s songs were not just chart-toppers, but also gave out a message. Her song “Respect” was a call to arms, while “(You make me feel like) A natural woman” was an earthy expression of sexuality and “Think” was a rallying cry for women fed up with loutish men. She even won a Golden Globe award for “Never gonna break my faith”. As the first woman admitted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she had 88 Billboard chart hits during the rock era, the top among female vocalists. At the peak of her career — from 1967 to 1975 — she had more than two dozen Top 40 hits.