Aretha Franklin, the teenage gospel singer who rose to become the Queen of Soul, selling 75 million records and inspiring generations, has died.
Franklin died on Thursday at 9:50am (local time) at her home in Detroit surrounded by family and loved ones, her publicist said.
A family statement said “Franklin’s official cause of death was due to advanced pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin’s oncologist, Dr Philip Phillips of Karmanos Cancer Institute” in Detroit.
“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,” the statement continued.
“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 was known for her powerful voice and for many hits, including Respect, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, Chain of Fools and Think.
She won 18 Grammy Awards and became the first female performer inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade — our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect,” former president Barack Obama and wife, Michelle, said in a statement.
“She helped us feel more connected to each other, more hopeful, more human. And sometimes she helped us just forget about everything else and dance.”
Former Beatle Paul McCartney said on Twitter: “Let’s all 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.”
Singer Diana Ross said: “I’m sitting in prayer for the wonderful golden spirit Aretha Franklin.”
Barbra Streisand wrote: “Not only was she a uniquely brilliant singer, but her commitment to civil rights made an indelible impact on the world.”
Franklin was born in Memphis, Tennessee, but moved as a child to Detroit, where her father, CL Franklin, became a pastor at the New Bethel Baptist Church.
It was there Franklin began singing before, at 18, expressing a desire to shift from the world of gospel to pop, a move her father supported.
She was signed to Columbia Records in 1960, with her father as her manager, but it wasn’t until a move to Atlantic in 1967, and the release of I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You), that she started to see commercial success.
Aretha Franklin performs Respect in the 1960s
Her version that year of Respect, written by Otis Redding, became an anthem for the civil rights movement, which was reaching its zenith in the United States.
It helped that Franklin had deep connections to that world.
Her father walked side-by-side with Dr Martin Luther King Jnr at a major rally the elder Franklin helped organise in Detroit in 1963.
In 1968, Franklin sang Precious Lord, an old gospel song, at a memorial for Dr King.
Franklin continued to release music in the following decades, scoring hits in the 1980s with a version of The Rolling Stones’ Jumpin’ Jack Flash and I Knew You Were Waiting For Me, a duet with George Michael.
Her influence stretched far among female African-American singers, from Tina Turner and Whitney Houston to Ms Lauryn Hill, whom Franklin worked with in 1998, and Beyonce, who sung a version of Precious Lord at the Grammys in 2015.
Franklin suffered from depression and alcoholism over the years, and her health began to decline in 2010, when she had a tumour removed.
She cancelled a series of concerts on doctors’ orders last year and this year.