The legendary American soul singer Aretha Franklin has passed away aged 76, her representatives have confirmed.
Franklin, who had been suffering from pancreatic cancer, died at her home in Detroit, surrounded by friends and family.
An official statement released by her publicist stated: ‘Franklin’s official cause of death was due to advance pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin’s oncologist, Dr. Philip Phillips of Karmanos Cancer Institute.’
Her family added: ‘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.’
Often referred to as the Queen of Soul and widely regarded as one of the best singers of all time, Franklin released her debut album in 1956, and found global fame in the following decade, with a clutch of singles like Respect, I Say A Little Prayer and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.
Over the course of her decade-spanning career, she made history in a number of ways. Not only was she the first ever woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (in 1987), she also performed at the inauguration of three US presidents: Jimmy Carter in 1977, Bill Clinton in 1993 and Barack Obama in 2009 (when she famously sang My Country, ‘Tis Of Thee). She later performed for President Obama at the 38th Kennedy Centre honours ceremony in 2015, famously reducing the POTUS to tears with her rendition of (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.
The daughter of a Baptist preacher who helped organise a march for racial equality back in 1963, she also played a role in the civil rights movement of the 1960s: her song_Respect_was adopted as something of an unofficial anthem by protestors, and she was later presented with a leadership award by Martin Luther King.
She had faced ill health since 2010, when it was announced that she’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but carried on singing live until 2017, when she announced her retirement. Shortly before this, she made her last performance at her home city Detroit’s inaugural Detroit Music Weekend, performing a medley of at Aretha Franklin Way, the street named after her.