Aretha Franklin, 78, is “gravely ill” and could pass away within days, according to media reports. Her family and friends have gathered around her in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, her longtime home.
The last performances of the Queen of Soul were on November 2, 2017, for the Elton John AIDS Foundation in New York and at Philadelphia’s Mann Center in August 2017.
One source told a media outlet in recent days, “Prepare yourself she’s dying.” Franklin reportedly has cancer and has lost a great deal of weight.
A Detroit news anchor, Evrod Cassimy, said on Twitter, “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.”
Born in Memphis, Tenn., in 1942 to a pastor and civil right activist, she was 5 years old when her family moved to Detroit. She sang gospel and played the piano at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit. She began her professional singing career at 18 with a contract with Columbia Records. Later she moved labels to Atlantic.
Franklin’s powerful, distinctive gospel-honed vocal style has influenced countless singers across the decades, earning her Rolling Stone magazine’s No. 1 placing on the list of “The Greatest Singers Of All Time.”
The 18-time Grammy winner helped shape American history. She performed “Precious Lord” at Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral in 1968 and she was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. In 2005 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.
In its essay on Franklin, Rolling Stone magazine wrote:
“You know a force from heaven. You know something that God made. And Aretha is a gift from God. When it comes to expressing yourself through song, there is no one who can touch her. She is the reason why women want to sing.
Aretha Franklin’s last performance in Detroit in June 2017
“Aretha has everything — the power, the technique. She is honest with everything she says. Everything she’s thinking or dealing with is all in the music, from ‘Chain of Fools’ to ‘Respect’ to her live performances. And she has total confidence; she does not waver at all. I think her gospel base brings that confidence, because in gospel they do not play around — they’re all about chops, who has the vocal runs. This is no game to her.”
Her many classics include “(You Make Me Feel) A Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools,” “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” “Freeway of Love,” “Respect,” and “Think.”
A musical website devoted to soul music said, “Aretha Franklin is one of the giants of soul music, and indeed of American pop as well. More than any other performer, she epitomized soul at its most gospel-charged. Her astonishing run of late-60s hits earned her the title Lady Soul.”
Franklin moved to New York City and then to Los Angeles before returning to Detroit in the 1980s to be close to her family at home in the suburb of Bloomfield Hills. She has a fear of flying and would only travel by road or train.
Franklin has been married twice and has four children.
In January 2018, it was announced that Franklin wanted Jennifer Hudson to play her in an upcoming biopic film.
Nancy Bilyeau, a former staff editor at *Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone*, and *InStyle*, has written a trilogy of historical thrillers for Touchstone Books. For more information, go to www.nancybilyeau.com.