Music legend Aretha Franklin passed away today, August 16, at the age of 76. Fans around the world only found out she was sick earlier this week when her family told a local Detroit station about her illness. She was reportedly “gravely ill,” though there were no details on what that entailed. She spent the last few days in hospice care, surrounded by family and friends, including fellow musician Stevie Wonder.
The “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” singer was born in Memphis in 1942, the daughter of the famous pastor and civil rights activist C. L. Franklin. She was two years old when he family moved to Detroit, where she became an icon. She began singing gospel music. When her professional career began, she had trouble blending rock and roll with the religious music she was used to. She found her voice in soul music.
Her most iconic hits include “I Say A Little Prayer,” “Respect,” “Chain of Fools,” and “Think.” She became known as “The Queen of Soul.” She appeared in the classic 1980 musical comedy The Blues Brothers, which became a cult classic. In 1987 she became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
She has the third most Grammys of any female artist all time. She released her final album last year, Brand New Me with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. She did a small tour to promote the album, but announced that it would be her last year touring. While she planned on recording more, she wanted to spend more time with her grandchildren.
Some of the more recent iconic performances of her career included her performance of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2015, when songwriter Carole King received the award. She received her Kennedy Center Honor in 1994, in addition to a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. She also sang at President Barack Obama’s 2009 Inauguration.
Aretha had four sons, Clarence, Edward, Teddy, and Kecalf. She was married twice.