Aretha Franklin died Thursday following a battle with cancer, her publicist confirmed to the Associated Press.
The Queen of Soul was 76 years old.
Franklin was born in Memphis, Tenn., in 1942, the daughter of a pastor and a civil rights activist.
When Franklin was 2 years old, her family moved to Detroit.
After Franklin’s mother died in 1952, she went on tour performing gospel songs with her father, Clarence LaVaughn Franklin, who then acted as her manager.
When she turned 18, she told her father she aspired to record pop music like Sam Cooke, at which point her father aided in producing a demo that made its way to Columbia Records.
She achieved success in R&B with her first three releases, but it wasn’t until she signed with Atlantic Records and released “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” in 1967 that she achieved commercial stardom in the pop realm.
That April, Franklin dropped her iconic cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect,” which would go on to become her signature song.
Other hits included “Chain of Fools,” “I Say a Little Prayer” and her rendition of Carole King’s “Natural Woman.”
In 1963, Franklin’s father helped Martin Luther King Jr. organize Detroit’s Walk to Freedom, a march of over 100,000 people to raise awareness of the Civil Rights Movement.
Five years later, Franklin would perform at King’s funeral.
While her professional life flourished, Franklin’s personal life took darker turns.
At 19, she married Theodore “Ted” White, eventually divorcing in 1969 amid rumors of domestic violence.
She then married actor Glynn Turman at her father’s church in 1978, becoming a stepmother to his three children. They divorced in 1984.
Franklin first debuted her longtime partner William “Willie” Wilkerson in 1987. The couple was engaged in January 2012, but never made it down the aisle.
Franklin’s career was beyond illustrious, earning her 44 Grammy nominations and 18 wins, including the Grammy Legend and Lifetime Achievement awards.
Franklin shattered numerous glass ceilings throughout her tenure on the charts.
She was the first woman ever inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, as well as the youngest artist ever, at age 52, inducted into the Kennedy Center Honors.
In 2005, President George W. Bush awarded Franklin a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In 2009, Franklin performed “My Country Tis of Thee” at President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
Franklin’s pulse on pop music never faltered, and she nabbed her 100th hit on the Billboard R&B charts with a cover of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.”
She showed no signs of stopping as recently as 2016, when she performed the national anthem at a Thanksgiving Detroit Lions game.
Franklin knows she’s a legend, and it seems she’d have been happy to go out with the world knowing that too.
“Being the Queen is not all about singing, and being a diva is not all about singing,” she famously said. “It has much to do with your service to people. And your social contributions to your community and your civic contributions as well.”
The legendary vocalist was in failing health for the last few years of her nearly six-decade career in music.
In March, the singer was ordered by a doctor to cancel all upcoming performances for the foreseeable future.
In February 2017, she vowed to retire from performing; in 2015, she canceled shows due to “exhaustion.” She was rumored to be on her deathbed in November 2017, which those close to her, including actress Holly Robinson Peete, denied on her behalf.
Despite her retirement, the Queen of Soul didn’t fear losing her crown.
She told Local 4 in Detroit, “I feel very, very enriched and satisfied with respect to where my career came from, and where it is now. I’ll be pretty much satisfied, but I’m not going to go anywhere and just sit down and do nothing. That wouldn’t be good either.”
Franklin is survived by her four sons, Clarence and Edward Franklin, Kecalf Cunningham and Ted White Jr.
Memorial services have not yet been announced.
DeRon Beasley is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of FreshAsFrankie.com. After starting out as a musician-producer he went on to study the music business and work in Urban Promotions, followed by artist management. Mr. Beasley entrepreneurial spirit has led him to launch numerous businesses in music and fashion marketing. He’s a huge fan of the ’80s and ’90s Hip Hop and R&B, and he’s a firm believer that Hip Hop Music will never die.