Aretha Franklin dead at 76
The Queen of Soul and the woman who Rolling Stone Magazine called “the greatest singer of all time”, has died. Aretha Franklin was 76 years old. Aretha Franklin dead at 76.
At first, there were unconfirmed rumors of serious illness. Shortly after, Franklin’s press rep revealed Franklin to be “seriously ill.” She had been receiving palliative care in recent days with friends and family expecting that she would eventually succumb to her illness.
Aretha performed last November at Elton John’s annual AIDS Foundation gala, which would end up being her final performance. Franklin announced that she would retire from touring in 2018, but then she canceled scheduled concerts following per her doctor’s recommendation. She recently announced plans to work on an album with Stevie Wonder.
Her career began as a child singing gospel at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, where her father was a minister. In 1960, at the age of 18, she began her secular recording career with Columbia Records. It wasn’t until she signed with Atlantic Records in 1967, that songs such as “Respect”, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, “Chain of Fools” and “Think” made her a worldwide sensation. Those records and roof-raising live performances earned her the title “The Queen of Soul”.
Her career re-surged after signing to Arista Records in 1980. Hits included “Freeway of Love,” which gave her a #1 Dance Club hit. She collaborated over the years with artists as varied as George Benson, Keith Richards, Curtis Mayfield and George Michael. Her 1987 duet with Michael, “I Knew You Were Waiting for Me,” became a #1 hit in 1987. Franklin racked up 17 Grammys and an additional 3 honors from the Grammy organization, including their Lifetime Achievement Award and MusiCares Person of the Year.
The Queen of Soul sang for several Presidential inaugurations, including those of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. She was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1994, but her most memorable performance came in 2015. That year, she made honoree Carole King and President Obama cry with her performance of King’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman.”
A private life in the public eye
A self-confessed TV addict and lover of doo wopp music, she guarded her personal life as much as possible. In the early 60s, she dated Nate Nelson of the Flamingos. In her 1999 autobiography “Aretha: From These Roots”, she revealed that she carried on a secret love affair. She called the man “a well-known public figure,” and referred him to as “Mister Mystique.” Rumors swirled about possible romantic ties to Jesse Jackson (who visited her bedside on Tuesday) and Levi Stubbs, lead singer of the Four Tops. She married twice and was in a committed relationship for the last several years. Her current boyfriend, William Wilkerson was a former Detroit firefighter who took care of her in her final days. A planned marriage was called off and never re-scheduled. Franklin leaves four children, Ted White Jr., Kecalf Cunningham, Clarence Franklin, and Edward Franklin.
In 2010, Franklin was rumored to be battling pancreatic cancer after she canceled concerts to undergo a medical procedure. While Franklin denied rumors that she had cancer, she did reveal that she has surgery to remove a tumor.
In 1987, in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s second round of inductions, Aretha Franklin became the first woman inducted into the Hall. Aretha Franklin dead at 76.
Tribute concert events by industry luminaries are already underway.