Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul who sold tens of millions of R&B and pop albums with iconic hits like “Respect” and “Chain of Fools,” has died. She was 76.
She died this morning of advance pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, according to a statement from her publicist, Gwendolyn Quinn.
Her family released the following statement:
“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.”
“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.”
Franklin died in her hometown Detroit after struggling with health problems in recent years and falling seriously ill within the past week.
Franklin was perhaps best known for “Respect” – the Otis Redding cover that her powerful voice transformed into a bold anthem and demand for dignity adopted by the feminist movement in the 1970s.
She also had a string of 20 No. 1 R&B singles, stretching from 1967 to 1985. Those iconic tunes helped earn her 18 Grammy Awards and consistently placed her on most critics’ lists of the greatest singers of all time.
In 1987, Franklin became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Franklin, who had battled undisclosed health issues in recent years, canceled planned concerts earlier this year after she was ordered by her doctor to stay off the road and rest up.
She was originally scheduled to perform on her 76th birthday in March in Newark, New Jersey, and at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in April.
Last year, the icon announced her plans to retire, saying she would perform at “some select things.”
One of those select events was a gala for Elton John’s 25th anniversary of his AIDS foundation in November in New York City, where Franklin closed the event with a collection of songs including “I Say a Little Prayer” and “Freeway.”