Aretha Franklin, the preacher’s daughter whose powerful voice made her the long-reigning “Queen of Soul” with such hit songs as “Respect” and “Chain of Fools,” died on Thursday at the age of 76, officials said.
Franklin, who won 18 Grammy Awards and had some 25 gold records, died at her home in Detroit surrounded by family and loved ones, her publicist said. She had been battling advanced pancreatic cancer.
Calling it one of the darkest moments of their lives, Franklin’s family said they were unable to find the appropriate words to express the pain in their hearts.
“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,” her family said in a statement.
Franklin’s father was a Baptist preacher in Detroit, and the gospel singing she heard in his church was her musical foundation. Her uniquely emotional and powerful voice would put her at the forefront of 1960s soul music along with Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and Wilson Pickett.
Franklin was active in the U.S. civil rights movement and sang at the funeral of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr in 1968.
She also performed at the presidential inaugurations of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. In 1987, she became the first woman voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Rolling Stone magazine in 2010 named her the No. 1 singer of the rock era.
After recording and touring as a young gospel singer, Franklin’s career took a secular turn in 1961 when she signed with Columbia Records. She had only modest success with Columbia, which had trouble classifying her style and tried to steer her toward pop.
She switched to Atlantic Records in the mid-1960s, where producer Jerry Wexler put her powerful voice in a setting that combined gospel, soul and rock, and made her a superstar by letting “the lady wail.” As Franklin put it in her autobiography, she “Aretha-ized” the music. -Reuters