Aretha Franklin. Photo: Jeff Kowalsky

Music icon and inimitable vocalist Aretha Franklin has died

The world lost a once-in-a-generation performer with the death of Aretha Franklin today, August 16. The 76-year-old singer whose voice graced such iconic songs as “Respect,” “Chain of Fools” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” passed away with family by her side in her native Detroit, Michigan. The cause was advanced pancreatic cancer, her publicist, Gwendolyn Quinn, said, according to the NY Times.

A Young Aretha Franklin

A young Aretha Franklin

On August 14, CNN reported that the Queen of Soul was in hospice care after a local Detroit program, Showbiz 411, broke the news of her being “gravely ill.” Showbiz 411’s Roger Friedman spoke to CNN’s Don Lemon at the time, saying “She has a great family, she’s surrounded by love, and the world is sending prayers. All further announcements will be made by her family. We just want to send love and prayers.”

Ms. Franklin saddened the music world in 2017 when she announced she would stop touring, a move which caused her to cancel her appearance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. She was scheduled to perform at this year’s Jazz Fest but was again forced to cancel her appearance due to her declining health.

Aretha Franklin signed her first major-label record contract in 1960 and by the end of the decade had established herself as one of the world’s pre-eminent soul singers. In 1987, she made history as the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Over the course of her incomparable career, she received a Kennedy Center Honor, 18 Grammy wins (and 44 nominations) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded to her by then President George W. Bush in 2005.

Also in 2005, Franklin spoke with OffBeat‘s Geraldine Wyckoff and had this to say about New Orleans:

“I used to come to New Orleans many years ago as a young singer with my dad [Reverend C.L. Franklin]. I used to sing just before he would get up to speak and, of course, I accompanied him on piano. Many times we came to New Orleans and we stayed on LaSalle, I believe it was. There was a hotel at the time in the 1960s by the name of the Foster Hotel and that’s where I believe we stayed and there was also the Fairmont Hotel. I also came after going to New York and I was beginning to sing secular music. I’m aware of the Mardi Gras and I watched it from the windows of the Foster Hotel on a number of occasions. It was just spectacular, a spectacular event for a young girl to see just beginning to travel with my daddy. And also I would see the concerts at the City [Municipal] Auditorium with Ray Charles and he would be rockin’ the City Auditorium in New Orleans. So I have many fond memories of New Orleans and it’s always a pleasure to come and it’s wonderful for me to sing here after so long.”

OffBeat sends our sincerest condolences to the Franklin family.