Today, the world lost Aretha Franklin, a cultural institution, an activist for women and the civil right movement, a queen, an icon and one of the greatest musicians of the 21st century.
Franklin died Thursday at her home in Detroit from pancreatic cancer.
On Monday, August 13, reports surfaced that Franklin was “gravely ill” and her family was asking for prayers.
Her niece, Rev. Brigette Franklin, issued the following statement exclusively to theGrio:
“Thank everyone on behalf of our family for all of the phone calls, text messages, social media posts, emails and inbox messages. We are so thankful for the many lives that our beloved aunt Ree touched.”
Aretha Louise Franklin was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1942. Her father, Clarence LaVaughn Franklin, was a preacher and her mother was a piano player and vocalist. The family moved to Detroit when Aretha was four years old when her father took over the pastorship at New Bethel Baptist Church and developed a reputation for having a “million dollar voice.” Aretha traveled with him and performed gospel songs at several churches, ultimately signing her first record deal at the age of 14 with J.B.V. Records in 1956.
Franklin began her mainstream music career in 1960 when she signed to Columbia Records and released her first secular album, Aretha: With The Ray Bryant Combo that included her first-ever charting single, “Won’t Be Long” in 1961.
She moved to Atlantic Records in 1966 and released her first top 10 hit, “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Loved You)” the following year. Months later, she dropped her quintessential offering “Respect” nabbing her first No.1 hit on both the R&B and pop chart. Two more top 10 singles, “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman” and “Baby I Love You” quickly followed, setting the tone for an illustrious career full of accolades.
In 1980, she signed with Clive Davis‘ Arista Records and delivered a command performance at Albert Hall for Queen Elizabeth. In 2009, she performed “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” at President Barack Obama‘s Inauguration, and in 2014, she became the first woman to have 100 songs on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
Franklin announced her plans to retire from touring in February 2017, so that she could more time with family. Rolling Stone quoted her statement:
“I am retiring this year,” the singer told a Detroit news station. “I will be recording, but this will be my last year in concert. This is it.”
Franklin has been a beloved figure in the entertainment industry for decades and turned out 112 charted singles, 17 top 10 pop singles, and 20 No.1 R&B singles. Her 1967 hit “Respect” is the ultimate civil rights and feminist anthem and will forever be known as her signature song.
She leaves behind an enormous legacy of and impossible pumps to fill.