Aretha Franklin passed away on Thursday morning in her Detroit home. She was 76 years old; the cause of death was advanced pancreatic cancer.
“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,” Franklin’s family told the Associated Press in a statement.
“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.”
The music legend certainly lived a full and memorable life.
Back in March, Franklin had to cancel two scheduled concerts in Boston and Toronto because her doctors told her to stay home and rest. However, she did still perform live as recently as last year.
One of those appearances was in her hometown of Detroit, in June 2017. At that concert, which was free to the public, she finished by saying, “God bless you, God keep you, keep me in your prayers.”
Franklin’s accolades for her singing ability have been plentiful. Most notably, she became the first female artist to be enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, back in 1987. She won 18 Grammy Awards (including one in 1994 for lifetime achievement) and sold over 75 million records.
“Respect” is perhaps her best-known song; its chorus, in part, goes, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me, R-E-S-P-E-C-T, take care, TCB.” The song — which came out in 1967 — was so popular that the mayor of Detroit back in 1968, Jerome Cavanagh, declared February 16 to be “Aretha Franklin Day.”
It was her first song to win a Grammy . In 1973, she won two Grammys, one for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance (“To Be Young, Gifted and Black”) and another for Best Soul Gospel Performance (“Amazing Grace”).
Aretha Franklin also inspired younger artists to pursue their passion. That fact was evident on social media Thursday morning, when many notable artists — such as John Legend, Carole King, Barbra Streisand and Kaya Jones — all paid tribute.
— Carole King (@Carole_King) August 16, 2018
Salute to the Queen. The greatest vocalist I've ever known. ?????????? #Aretha
— John Legend (@johnlegend) August 16, 2018
— Kaya Jones (@KayaJones) August 16, 2018
Lionel Richie spoke glowingly of Franklin and told Variety in a statement, “Her voice; her presence; her style. No one did it better. Truly the Queen of Soul. I will miss you!”
Franklin’s work will live on — and perhaps will inspire even more artists.
Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, and other outlets.