Aretha Franklin, the iconic singer whose powerful voice and charismatic performances led to her being crowned the Queen of Soul, has died from pancreatic cancer while surrounded by her loved ones at her Detroit home, according to a report from the Associated Press. She was 76. 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 was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. Her final performance was in November 2017 while attending a private event for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The New York Times described her that night as “a little fragile,” adding that “she prevailed, singing in sweet, straining and soulful tones about troubled waters, prayer, and hope.” Franklin also released her 42nd and final album, A Brand New Me, in November 2017 after announcing in February that she planned on retiring by the end of that year. "I'm cleaning house," she revealed to Detroit news anchor and close friend Evrod Cassimy in February 2017. "I'm going to be moving back into Detroit, and I'm just getting things ready for that. My granddaughter just went to college, so I'm spending time with my grandchildren." Franklin is survived by her four sons and their children.
She will be greatly missed by her family, friends, and fans, but her incredible influence on the music industry will never be forgotten.
Aretha Franklin Biography
Aretha Louise Franklin was born March 25, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee. Her father, a traveling preacher, moved the family around before eventually settling in Detroit. Franklin got her start in the music industry as a gospel singer at just 14 years old with her debut album, Songs of Faith, released in 1956. While traveling with other spiritual singers, Franklin met and became inspired by soulful crooner Sam Cooke and his successful crossover into pop music.
In 1960, Franklin signed with Columbia Records and released her first secular single, “Today I Sing the Blues.” After moderate success early on that decade, she switched over to Atlantic Records in 1967. Her first record for the company, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, included perhaps her most beloved and well-known tune, “Respect.” Franklin would go on to release even more classic hits before the end of the 1960s, including "Baby I Love You," "(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman," "Chain of Fools", "Think," and "I Say a Little Prayer."
Franklin remained a respected fixture in the entertainment industry for decades, earning 18 Grammy awards and receiving the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994. She was bestowed several other accolades over the course of her long career, among them being the first female performer inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1994, and accepting the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. Franklin also dabbled in acting, most notably as a singing waitress in The Blues Brothers. Of course, she was most beloved in her adopted home state: Michigan described her voice as one of their “natural resources” in 1985.
Her final public concert took place in August 2017 at Philadelphia’s Mann Center, a few months before her last-ever performance at a private event celebrating the 25th anniversary of Elton John’s AIDS Foundation in November 2017.
Young Aretha Franklin
Over the many years of her groundbreaking career, countless photographers were able to capture Franklin shining in her element as a true diva. From vibrant stage performances to candid shots of the singer going through her daily routine, these images prove Franklin was a formidable and eye-catching presence in all aspects of her life. We can clearly see why her style and grace influenced so many young performers throughout the decades.
Scroll down to see just a few of the breathtaking images of young Aretha Franklin through the years to remember her poise, elegance, and beauty — and why the star will always continue to shine in our memories.