By Keith Sharp
Aretha Franklin, “The Queen Of Soul’, gallantly lost her battle with advance pancreatic cancer at the age of 76, passing away Thursday morning August 16th at her Detroit home surrounded by friends and family.
In a statement issued by her family, “In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family. The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins knew no bounds.”
Discovered singing gospel at her father’s New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Franklin recorded her first gospel record at the age of 14 and by the age of 18 had signed for Columbia Records. Ironically label president Clive Davis had no idea what to do with this raw talent and it wasn’t until she signed with Atlantic Records in 1967 that Aretha’s image as The Queen Of Soul began to blossom. In 1981 she moved back to join Davis at Arista Records.
Aretha went on to sell a total of 75 million records, chalk up 112 charted singles on Billboard Magazine and win 18 Grammy Awards. Franklin was the first female artist inducted in The Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame during its inaugural 1987 launch. Her major hits included “Respect”, Carole King’s “(You Make Me Feel) Like A Natural Woman”, “Chain Of Fools”, “When A Man Loves A Woman”,“Freeway Of Love” and “Baby I Love You”.
Franklin also reached cult status by featuring in the two Blues Brothers movies as well as a number of musical.
Unfortunately, Aretha was dogged by weight and health issues during much of her later career and was forced to cancel a number of concerts including a scheduled date this Fall at Toronto’s Sony Centre and engagements at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Franklin’s last complete concert was staged in New York City November 27th 2017 when she performed at Elton John’s 25th annual charity foundation event.
Franklin will be for ever known as a pivotal figure in both Gospel and Soul Music and her passing is being mourned by music’s elite including Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger, Carole King and Maria Carey who cited Franklin as her chief influence.