By Kylie Kiunguyu
Aretha Franklin, the legendary ‘Queen of Soul’, whose gospel influenced bluesy delivery earned her undisputed musical stripes, 18 Grammys and about 25 gold records, has passed away at the age of 76.
According to one of her publicists, Gwendolyn Quinn, Aretha Franklin had been battling advanced pancreatic cancer before her death. She went on to say that Franklin died at her home in Detroit, surrounded by family and friends. “The official cause of death was due to advanced pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin’s oncologist, Dr Philip Phillips of Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit,” the family statement said.
“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,” Franklin’s family said.
“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.”
The singer’s final public performance was last November at an Elton John AIDS Foundation gala in New York.
Although Aretha was born in Memphis, Tennessee, her influence was felt everywhere, within the United States and beyond. The Mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan, said in a statement that very few people in the city’s history had been as universally loved or had left as indelible a mark as Franklin. He went on to describe her as a “performer without peer”. “Throughout her extraordinary life and career, she earned the love – and yes, the respect – of millions of people, not just for herself and for women everywhere, but for the city she loved so dearly and called home,” Duggan said.
Aretha’s professional career has spanned more than half a century, defining a genre and inspiring a whole crop of artists. The first woman admitted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she had 88 Billboard chart hits during the rock era, placing her at the top among female vocalists.
“Aretha Franklin is not only the definitive female soul singer of the Sixties,” according to her Rolling Stone biography, “she’s also one of the most influential and important voices in pop history.”
Some of her most popular songs that gave voice to many a woman and girl include:
“I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” (1967)
For every woman who has loved someone who was bad for them, despite everyone cautioning against it, Aretha sang this one for you! “Because I ain’t never loved a man the way I love you!”
Her vocals, accompanied by an electric piano, escalate to a crescendo that stands as one of the greatest pop showstoppers of all time.
This is the feminist anthem to end all others. Aretha created a war cry for every woman that had been mistreated or disrespected in any way. The song became one of pop’s most stirring anthems of both feminism and black pride. “All I’m asking is for a little respect…”
“(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” (1967)
The feminine mystique is often misunderstood and varies in every woman but Aretha put the idea of it to music in a way everyone could understand.
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” (1971)
Aretha’s rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s song brought it back to the Top 10 in a version that far surpassed the original.
“Young, Gifted and Black” (1972)
Written by another legend, Nina Simone, for the playwright Lorraine Hansberry, the song received its most absolute interpretation on Ms. Franklin’s album, becoming an anthem for black excellence.
“Something He Can Feel” (1976)
The risqué song has seen several cover renditions, including one by the girl group En Vogue, but none beats the emphatic, soulful version done by the Queen of Soul. She definitely steamed up the airwaves with this one. This Is Africa