March 25, 1942 – Aug. 16, 2018
Aretha Franklin, whose iconic voice brought a president to tears and mesmerized and inspired generations for more than 60 years, died Aug. 16.
She was 76.
In a statement announcing her death from pancreatic cancer, her family called her death “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 said. “We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family.”
When news of her grave illness broke on Aug. 14, tributes for the legendary vocalist poured in from around the country and the world.
Fans of the “Queen of Soul” called her “one of a kind,” “a force of nature,” and “a national treasurer.”
Georgia Congressman John Lewis said she was a “wonderful, beautiful soul.”
“We have lost one of the great spirits of our time,” he told CNN.
Former President Barack and Michele Obama said that through her compositions and unmatched musicianship, Franklin helped define the American experience.
“In her voice, we could feel our history,” the Obamas said. “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. 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 President Bill Clinton said Franklin stirred our souls.
“She was elegant, graceful, and utterly uncompromising in her artistry,” he said. “She will forever be the Queen of Soul and so much more to all who knew her personally and through her music.”
Franklin, who got her start at age 11 in New Bethel Baptist Church, her father C.L. Franklin's Detroit church, had 73 entries on the Billboard Hot 100, the most among women for nearly 40 years, won 18 Grammy Awards and was the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
At the news of death, singer Elton John said, “The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.”
Franklin sold tens of millions of R&B and pop albums with hits like "Respect," which became both a civil rights and feminist anthem, "Chain of Fools," "I Say a Little Prayer," "Freeway of Love," “Natural Woman,” and so many others.
Franklin sang at three presidential inaugurations – Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – and at the funeral of her friend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. In 2005, President George W. Bush awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In interviews throughout her career, Franklin said the key to her success was being herself.
“Being an original sets you apart from everyone else,” she said.
Franklin’s family said Thursday that they were “deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support” they received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world.
“Thank you for your compassion and prayers,” the statement said. “We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on.”