Less than a week after family friends released the sad news that Aretha Franklin was “gravely ill” and nearing the end, the woman considered a cultural icon and one of the finest vocalists of our time died on August 16, 2018, in Detroit while receiving hospice care, surrounded by loved ones.
Publicist Gwendolyn Quinn told the Associated Press through a family statement that Franklin died at 9:50 a.m. at her home in Detroit. The statement said “Franklin’s 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.”
According to the AP, the family added: “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.”
The statement continued:
“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.”
RIP Aretha Franklin 1942 – 2018
From the time she sang as a child in her father’s church in Detroit, Aretha Franklin’s gift was clear to all. She began her professional career at the age of 18, and went on to sing such classics as “Respect,” “(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools,” and “Think.”
Aretha Franklin was the first woman admitted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She hit the Billboard chart with 88 hits, making her the top among female vocalists. From 1967 to 1975, she had more than 24 hits in the Top 40.
Her last performance was on November 2, 2017 for the Elton John AIDS Foundation in St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York City.
Elton John posted a tribute, saying, “The loss of Aretha Franklin is a blow for everybody who loves real music: Music from the heart, the soul and the Church. Her voice was unique, her piano playing underrated–she was one of my favorite pianists. I was fortunate enough to spend time with her….she was obviously unwell and I wasn’t sure she would perform. But Aretha did and she raised the roof. She sang and played magnificently and we all wept. We were witnessing the greatest soul artist of all time.”
Tributes to Aretha Franklin poured in, with Diana Ross saying, I’m sitting in prayer for the wonderful golden spirit Aretha Franklin,” and John Legend saying, “Salute to the Queen. The greatest vocalist I’ve ever known.”
Annie Lennox’s reaction was “She has reigned supreme, and will always be held in the highest firmament of stars as the most exceptional vocalist, performer and recording artist the world has ever been privileged to witness.”
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Jay-Z and Beyoncé performed in Detroit on Monday. After performing their first song at the show, Beyoncé told the crowd, “This show is dedicated to Aretha Franklin.”
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.