Today the world has lost one of its greatest ever voices with music royalty Aretha Franklin passing away in Detroit at the age of 76. The “queen of soul”, best know for era-defining hits like Respect and Think, was diagnosed with cancer in 2010 but only announced her retirement from music last year.
Franklin had more than 20 US chart hits over a music career spanning seven decades. She was ordained the “Greatest Singer of All Time” in 2008 by Rolling Stone and her influence has shaped music from the second half of the twentieth century right through to today. She won 18 Grammy Awards and is one of the best-selling musical artists of all time, selling over 75 million records worldwide. Franklin was also the first female performer to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
In a statement, Franklin’s family said: “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.”
There had been concerns over the singer’s health recently, and the family has confirmed her death was due to advanced pancreatic cancer.
Aretha Franklin was born in Memphis in 1942 to a gospel singer/pianist and Baptist preacher. Franklin took up singing gospel at a young age but record labels struggled to capture her talent in the early parts of her career due to the sheer power of her voice. A move to Atlantic Records in 1966 saw her pair up with the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, where some of her most iconic performances were captured on record.
Some of the greatest names in music have paid tribute to her legacy today. Elton John said “The loss of Aretha Franklin is a blow for everybody who loves real music.”
Sir Paul McCartney said everyone should “Take a moment to give thanks for the beautiful life of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of our souls, who inspired us all for many many years. She will be missed but the memory of her greatness as a musician and a fine human being will live with us forever.”
Possibly no one before or since has been able to demonstrate the sheer amount of emotion, vocal range and soulful delivery as Aretha Franklin. While we are all poorer for her loss today, we are all greatly richer because of her influence across the world as a musician and a person in the time she was with us.
RIP Aretha Franklin.