Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul, Dead at 76

I’m always a little amazed when I think about people who’ve made culture-wide impacts. Most of us never get to influence individuals outside of our small circles.

And even there, making a lasting change can seem like trying to smash concrete with a feather. It feels nearly impossible.

But every once in a while, a particularly talented personality arrives on the scene and takes the world by storm. Aretha Franklin was one such person.

According to Biography.com, Franklin was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and the music was in her blood. Her father helmed a touring revival show, and while Franklin’s career began in his congregation, she eventually started traveling with him.

She completed her first album at the age of 14, and in 1961 she’d signed with Columbia Records and released her major-label debut “Aretha.” That album propelled her into the R&B charts, the pop charts — and an abiding musical legacy.

Franklin went on to become the Queen of Soul with smash hits such as “Respect” and “I Say a Little Prayer.” But her professional success was marred by personal tragedy.

She struggled to find lasting romantic happiness. What’s more, her father landed in a coma after a 1979 break-in at his home.

Through it all, Franklin kept making her music, enjoying pop relevance during the 1980s and political nods. She sang at the inaugurations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

During her career, she racked up an impressive 18 Grammys. Only in February 2017 (according to People) did she announce her retirement from music.

“I will be recording, but this will be my last year in concert,” she said. “This is it.”

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She did make a few select appearances after that pronouncement. Her last performance was November 2, 2017, at Elton John’s AIDS Foundation, although it wasn’t open to the general public.

Her last performance in the town she called home, Detroit, occurred in June 2017. At the end of her set, USA Today reported that she mysteriously said, “Please keep me in your prayers.”

Now we know why she made that plea. Her health was failing.

On August 13, WDIV anchor Evrod Cassimy tweeted, “I am so saddened to report that the Queen of Soul and my good friend, Aretha Franklin is gravely ill. I spoke with her family members this morning.

“She is asking for your prayers at this time. I’ll have more details as I’m allowed to release.”

Franklin’s passing was announced by her publicist the morning of Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. She passed away in her home in Detroit, Michigan after a long-fought battle with pancreatic cancer.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Franklin’s loved ones during this difficult time. Aretha, enjoy your rest. You left the world a more tuneful place.

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