Legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin has died today aged 76.
The critically-acclaimed diva passed away surrounded by her loved ones at her home in Detroit after an eight-year battle with cancer.
Aretha’s representative Gwendolyn Quinn said her cause of death was advanced pancreatic cancer.
The statement said: “Franklin’s official cause of death was due to advance pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin’s oncologist, Dr. Philip Phillips of Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit.”
Her family also released a statement which 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.”
Dubbed the Queen of Soul, her death marks the end of an era in music and has been mourned across the entertainment world.
One of the industry’s best-selling artists, she sold in excess of 75 million records over six decades.
But her global success was at odds with her working-class roots, which saw her born into a modest Memphis family on March 25, 1942.
The youngest of four children to Clarence LaVaughn and Barbara Franklin, her introduction to singing came, aged 8, when she began performing in a Detroit church.
She fell pregnant to a boy at school when she was just 12, with son Clarence born in January 1955. She had her second child by the age of 14.
Four years later she signed her first record deal with Columbia Records, but the venture was only moderately successful.
Disappointed by the lack of commercial recognition, she declined to renew her contract when it matured in 1966.
Instead, the following year, she accepted a life-changing offer from Atlantic Records, who’d tapped into the burgeoning R&B scene.
Her debut single for them, I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You), became her first Top 10 hit on the Billboard 100.
The subsequent album of the same name went on to become gold, spawning three other big hits: Baby I Love You, Carole King’s (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and a cover-version of Otis Redding’s Respect.
The latter, considered a civil rights anthem, became Franklin’s first-ever Number 1and is still considered her signature song.
She surfed this wave of success throughout the 1970s, most notably with her Amazing Grace gospel LP, which sold more than 2 million copies. But, by 1975, her popularity was waning.
Keen to recapture her hey-day, she left Atlantic to sign with Arista Records in 1980 – the same year she made a cameo appearance in hit film The Blues Brothers.
During this era she cultivated a much younger sound, resulting in songs such as Who’s Zoomin’ Who? and her duet with George Michael, I Knew You Were Waiting.
Her presence receded after this – with the exception of 1993’s dance hit A Deeper Love – but she made a comeback in 1998 with the Lauryn Hill-produced single A Rose Is Still A Rose, which preceded a gold-selling LP of the same name.
By this time she’d accrued 18 Grammy Awards and became the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock-n-Roll Hall Of Fame.
She was also bestowed with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
By October 2014, Franklin also became the first woman to have 100 songs on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
Personally her home life was no less eventful.
By 1970 she had four children by four different men. She also married and divorced twice, first to her manager Ted White and later Glynn Turman. The star also broke off an engagement to long-time friend William ‘Willie’ Wilkerson in 2012.
She is believed to have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2010, and admitted having had a tumour removed but subsequently denied it had returned in 2011.
She continued to perform up until last year, but cancelled a series of shows last summer, citing doctors orders.
“I must tell you, I’m retiring this year,” she told a Detroit radio station back in February 2017 before giving her last ever performance at the Elton John AIDS Foundation party in New York last November.
The star has previously struggled with alcoholism, obesity and a heavy smoking habit, and all three of Aretha’s brothers and sisters, including her manager Cecil Franklin, died of cancer in previous years.
Franklin is survived by her four sons: Clarence, Edward, Ted and Kecalf.