After several reports of ill health, Aretha Franklin’s publicist has confirmed the legendary singer’s death. She died earlier today (Aug. 16) in her Detroit home, surrounded by family. Franklin’s heath struggles go back to 2010, when she was diagnosed with a tumor.
The next year, she appeared to have lost a whopping 85 pounds after surgery, but wouldn’t say why she needed the surgery. In February 2017, Franklin announced her retirement before cancelling a string of shows.
Aretha Franklin’s voice is legend, but she was also a prodigious piano player. Musically versatile, she seemed able to perform any number of styles, from soul to gospel to R&B, and even once stood in for Luciano Pavarotti, singing the “Nessun Dorma” aria of Puccini's “Turandot” opera.
Franklin’s father was a Baptist preacher and a soul singer himself, known as the “Million Dollar Voice. He became her manager when she was 14. Her début record, “Songs of Faith”, came out in 1956, but it wasn’t until she switched over to secular music that her career really took off.
In April 1967, she sang on what is still her most widely-recognized record, a cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect”. The unforgettable hook R-E-S-P-E-C-T is, of course, world-famous and forever attached to Franklin’s name, even more so than Redding’s. Rolling Stone Magazine called “Respect” the fifth-greatest song of all time.
Respect won two Grammy awards, and Franklin’s name was made for good – she went on to earn 16 more during her illustrious career and also became the first woman ever inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.