Aretha Franklin, The ‘Queen Of Soul,’ Dies At 76
By TedED Robbins
Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” died Thursday in her home city of Detroit after battling pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type. Her death was confirmed by her publicist, Gwendolyn Quinn. She was 76.
Franklin sold more than 75 million records during her life, making her one of the best-selling artists of all time. She took soul to a new level and inspired generations of singers who came after her.
“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,” Franklin’s family wrote in a statement. “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. 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.”
No one’s life can be condensed to one word — but Aretha Franklin came close when she sang one word: “Respect.”
“Respect” was written by the great Otis Redding. In his version, a man is pleading, offering his woman anything she wants in exchange for her respect. He sang: “Hey little girl, you’re sweeter than honey / And I’m about to give you all of my money / But all I want you to do / Is just give it, give it / Respect when I come home …”
Aretha changed those lyrics to demand parity. “Oooh, your kisses,” she sang, “Sweeter than honey / And guess what? / So is my money …” In her hands, “Respect” became an empowering song — for black women and for all women. It was a No. 1 hit in 1967, and it became her signature song.
Franklin was 25 years old when “Respect” was released. But she had been singing since she was a small child in her father’s New Bethel Baptist Church.
“Someone found a footstool in the office and put it here on the stage, and they put it there for me to be seen because I was so small,” Franklin told NPR’s Morning Edition in 2004.
Aretha Franklin was born March 25, 1942, in Memphis, Tenn. — but she was raised mostly in Detroit. Her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, was a famous preacher, and her childhood was steeped in both music and the burgeoning civil rights movement. Her family was close friends with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who often stayed at their home. Some of the most important gospel artists of the day came to visit regularly as well, including Clara Ward and the Famous Ward Singers, Mahalia Jackson and Sam Cooke.
It was Franklin’s father who introduced her to the recording industry. Nicknamed “the man with the million-dollar voice,” C.L. Franklin was among the first Christian ministers to record his sermons (making dozens for the JVB and Chess labels) and to do radio broadcasts of his Sunday addresses; his 1953 sermon “The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest” is part of the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.