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Tributes pour in for ‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin-afp

n 2005, Franklin was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest award for an American civilian — by then-president George W. Bush

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Tributes have poured in for the beloved and iconic singer Aretha Franklin from friends, musicians, politicians and fans after the legendary “Queen of Soul” died aged 76.

“It’s difficult to conceive of a world without her. Not only was she a uniquely brilliant singer, but her commitment to civil rights made an indelible impact on the world,” singer and actress Barbra Streisand tweeted about Franklin, who died on Thursday after a history-making career that spanned six decades.

“I’m sitting in prayer for the wonderful golden spirit Aretha Franklin,” said Motown legend Diana Ross, while former Beatle Paul McCartney‏ called her “the Queen of our souls”.

Franklin influenced generations of female singers with unforgettable hits including “Respect” (1967), “Natural Woman” (1968) and “I Say a Little Prayer” (1968).

The 18-time Grammy award winner cemented her place in US music history with a powerful, bell-clear voice that stretched over four octaves. In a career crossing generations, her hits spanned from soul and R&B, to gospel and pop.

After a long battle with pancreatic cancer, Franklin passed away Thursday morning surrounded by her family and loved ones at her Detroit home, her family said in a statement issued by her publicist.

“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,” the statement said.

The family thanked fans around the world for their “incredible outpouring of love” since it emerged earlier this week that she was gravely ill.

Fans mourning the death of Franklin left balloons, flowers and mementos at Detroit’s New Bethel Baptist Church, where as a child the star kicked off her storied career singing gospel.

Reverend Charles Turner described her passing as a “Great loss — can’t nobody replace her,” adding that the grief felt by mourners was akin to the loss of a parent.

And in California similar tributes quickly amassed on Franklin’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Franklin’s death came on the same day that fellow US music giant Elvis Presley died 41 years ago at his home in Memphis, the city where Franklin was born.

– ‘National treasure’ –

In 1987, she became the first woman ever inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2010, Rolling Stone magazine put her at the top of its list of the 100 greatest singers of all time, male or female.

She performed at the inaugurations of presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, singing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” at the investiture of the country’s first African-American head of state. In 1977, Franklin sang for Jimmy Carter at the Kennedy Center the night before his inauguration.

In a heartfelt tribute from the Obamas, the former president and his wife Michelle praised Franklin’s “unmatched musicianship,” which they said “helped define the American experience.”

“Every time she sang, we were all graced with a glimpse of the divine,” the Obamas said in a statement. “In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade — our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. She helped us feel more connected to each other, more hopeful, more human.”

US President Donald Trump called the singer “terrific,” saying she “brought joy to millions of lives and her extraordinary legacy will thrive and inspire many generations to come.”

Clinton and his wife, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, hailed her as “one of America’s greatest national treasures.”

– ‘Unmatched’ –

Franklin — who was widely known by only her first name, in true diva style — rose from singing gospel in her father’s church to regularly topping rhythm and blues and pop charts in the 1960s and 1970s.

Other than “Respect,” her powerful cover of the Otis Redding tune that became a feminist anthem and her calling card, Franklin had dozens of Top 40 singles, according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Other hits include “Day Dreaming” (1972), “Jump to It” (1982), “Freeway of Love” (1985), and “A Rose Is Still A Rose” (1998). A 1986 duet with George Michael, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” hit number one in several countries.

Franklin’s declining health was first disclosed on the Showbiz 411 website late Sunday by Roger Friedman, a reporter and family friend.

The Detroit News later reported that she was in hospice care, as artists from across the musical spectrum offered well wishes to the singer who lived in Detroit — the Motor City, home of Motown — most of her life.

In 2005, Franklin was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest award for an American civilian — by then-president George W. Bush.

In 2010, she suffered serious health problems, but continued to perform until late last year, singing last in November 2017 for the Elton John AIDS Foundation in New York. That same year, Detroit named a street after her.


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