Aretha Franklin dead: Queen of Soul passes away at age 76

Danny Woods
August 16, 2018

She struggled to find fame in the early years, with record label Columbia unsure how to frame her impressively powerful voice. "Hudson's performances of "Think" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" that night demonstrated she is clearly up for the challenge, but she has her work cut out for her: "Even more than R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Franklin has always stood for truth. "She does not seem to be performing so much as bearing witness to a reality so simple and compelling that she could not possibly fake it".

President George W. Bush presented Franklin the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. By many accounts, the young prodigy learned to play piano by ear.

Franklin leaves behind her four sons - Clarence, Edward, Teddy and Kecalf.

Simply put, Franklin was arguably the greatest woman singer of the modern music era.

Franklin recorded a gospel album when she was just 14 and four years later signed with Columbia Records, where she produced eight albums and reached worldwide success with hit songs like "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody".

She continued to adapt, endured and came back strong with a slightly different sound in the 1980s, starting with the Grammy-nominated and critically acclaimed album "Jump to It". She would go on to win 18 Grammy Awards in total and perform at three presidential inaugurations. She died Thursday at her Detroit home while under hospice care. She sang at rallies that King led and was also an integral part of her father's weekly radio address, which reached black people across the country.

Franklin herself was already a mother before she struck fame.

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Her album of the same name also featured her signature number, a rendition of Otis Redding's Respect, which topped the chart.

But her childhood was not a happy one.

In spite of her fears, Franklin's legacy remained strong even in recent years. She earned her first accolades in years when subbing on the Grammys for Luciano Pavarotti; she sang "Nessun Dorma", the Puccini aria he'd re-popularized.

Past year she announced plans to retire after releasing one more album. He said the two have talked about her health over the years and said she is "a remarkable woman". I will be recording, but this will be my past year in concert.

In a career spanning more than 50 years, Franklin's performances marked certain pivotal moments in USA history. Her own songwriting chops sharpened on such hits as "Call Me", "Day Dreaming", and "Rock Steady".

Last November, at the age of 75, she gave her final performance at a gala in NY in aid of the Elton John Aids Foundation. She moved to Detroit when she was two years old, and remains one of the city's most famous residents. Her father, realizing his daughter's talents, made Aretha a part of his road shows, and her first gospel record, Songs of Faith, was released in 1956 with his encouragement.

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