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Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul, Dead at 76



It was a small moment that would reverberate for decades. On January 24th, 1967, Aretha Franklin was struggling to record “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” her first project for Atlantic after several years recording more conventional material for Columbia. As Franklin would recall, something with the studio musicians wasn’t clicking until someone said, “Aretha, why don’t you sit down and play?” Taking a seat at the piano, Franklin quickly cut the smoldering track that would become her first No. 1 R&B hit. “It just happened,” she said. “We arrived, and we arrived very quickly.”

And it never stopped. For more than five decades, Franklin was a singular presence in pop music, a symbol of strength, women’s liberation and the civil rights movement. Franklin, one of the greatest singers of all time, died Thursday of pancreatic cancer, according to her publicist, Gwendolyn Quinn.

“It is with deep and profound sadness that we announce the passing of Aretha Louise Franklin, the Queen of Soul,” Quinn said in a statement. “Franklin … passed away on Thursday morning, August 16 at 9:50 a.m. at her home in Detroit, MI, surrounded by family and loved ones. 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.



“We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world,” Quinn added. “Thank you for your compassion and prayers. We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on. As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.”

“Aretha Franklin was one of the most iconic voices in music history and a brilliant artist,” Franklin’s record label Sony Music said in a statement. “Over the course of her decades-long career, which included many years with the Sony Music family, she inspired countless musicians and fans, and created a legacy that paved the way for a long line of strong female artists.”

Dubbed the Queen of Soul in 1967, Franklin loomed over culture in several monumental ways. The daughter of a preacher man, she was born with one of pop’s most commanding and singular voices, one that could move from a sly, seductive purr to a commanding gospel roar. From early hits like “I Never Loved a Man” and “Think” up through later touchstones like “Sisters Are Doin’ it for Themselves” with Eurythmics, there was no mistaking Franklin’s colossal pipes. As one of her leading producers, Jerry Wexler, said of her simmering gospel-pop classic, “Spirit in the Dark,” “It was one of those perfect R&B blends of the sacred and the secular … It’s Aretha conducting church right in the middle of a smoky nightclub. It’s everything to everyone.”

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