Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, has died at age 76

By Megan Vick,

Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, died Thursday, Aug. 16, surrounded by friends and family in Detroit, Michigan, TMZ reports. She was 76.

A one-of-a-kind singer whose unmistakable voice left an indelible mark on the music industry, Franklin was reported to be "gravely ill" from cancer shortly before her passing. She spent the last few months of her life outside the public eye as she dealt with her declining health. Her last performance was the 25th anniversary gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which was held in November 2017. Before retiring from performing, however, she had asked audience members to keep her in their prayers.

Born March 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee, Franklin eventually moved to Detroit, where she grew up singing gospel songs. She found success in 1967 when she signed with Atlanta Records and released songs like "Respect," "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" and "Think." These songs would go on to earn her the title of Queen of Soul.

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Since rising to fame in the ’60s, Franklin has been cited as the musical inspiration for countless contemporary performers, including Jennifer Hudson and Christina Aguilera. In 1987, she was the first woman to ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Over the course of her career she won 18 Grammy Awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994. She was celebrated at the Kennedy Center Honors that same year and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. She made international headlines in 2008, when she sang "My Country ‘Tis of Thee" during President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

The celebrated soul singer had suffered various health problems over the years. She canceled shows in 2011 and 2013 to have emergency surgery, though she never publicly disclosed the cause of her health issues.

She is survived by four sons: Clarence, Edward, Ted and Kecalf.

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