Queen of soul Aretha Franklin dies, aged 76: music stars pay tribute

(Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Aretha Franklin, who was known as the queen of soul, has died at the age of 76. She had been suffering from pancreatic cancer, and recent reports had suggested that she was ‘gravely ill’.

Raised on a diet of gospel music, her commercial breakthrough came in 1966 with the song I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You). Recorded with the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section at FAME Studios, it set the tone for her career at Atlantic Records. There, aided by producer Jerry Wexler, she scored a string of hits including Baby I Love You, (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman, Chain of Fools, Think and I Say a Little Prayer.

There was also a cover of Otis Redding’s Respect, a song to which Franklin brought new meaning and which became an anthem for both the civil rights and feminist movements.

The ‘70s brought further, if not such consistent success, while her memorable appearance as a waitress in 1980 cult classic The Blues Brothers helped to introduce her to a new audience. More hit singles followed - the likes of Jump To It and I Knew You Were Waiting for Me, a duet with George Michael - and Franklin scored a club hit in 1993 with A Deeper Love.

1998’s A Rose Is Still a Rose saw Franklin embracing her R&B roots once again - the title track was produced by Lauryn Hill - and she was the natural, possibly only choice to sing at the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009.

Franklin’s health had been deteriorating since 2010, but she recorded a final original album, Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics, in 2014, and continued to give acclaimed performances. A further LP, A Brand New Me, was released in 2017 with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and featured reworkings of tracks from Franklin’s back catalogue.

Best known for jaw-dropping vocal talents and supreme ability to inhabit a song, Franklin was also an accomplished pianist. She’ll be remembered not only as one of the greatest, if not the greatest female soul voice of all time, but also as one of popular music’s brightest stars.

Some of the world's biggest music stars have been paying tribute to Aretha Franklin - here's what they've been saying.

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Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it.