Aretha Franklin Dies at 76

She was one of the best-selling artists of all time.

"Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin passed away at her home in Detroit on Thursday, her publicist told The Associated Press. She was 76.

The cause was pancreatic cancer.

The “Respect” singer was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in March 1942 and began her career as a little girl singing gospel in Detroit after her family relocated from Memphis to Buffalo and then to the Motor City. 

Franklin was born with musical roots, as her mother, Barbara Siggers Franklin, was a pianist and vocalist, and her father, Clarence LaVaughn Franklin, was a pastor. 

By the time Aretha Franklin was 18, she began touring with singer Sam Cooke and began recording demos, one of which ended up in the office of Columbia Records, which signed her in 1960. 

A year after signing with Columbia, Franklin entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart with the sing “Won’t Be Long,” which later peaked at No. 7. 

After a handful of hits, Franklin started earning $100,000 for performances and attention for the singer was bigger than ever. By 1966, she left Columbia and signed with Atlantic Records, with whom she eventually recorded one of her biggest hits – her cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect.” 

Franklin would later go on to sell over 75 million records in her career, making her one of the best-selling artists of all time. She would also win a total of 18 Grammys, and in 1987, was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. She has been named by Rolling Stone as one of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time and one of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. 

Outside of music, Franklin was also a civil rights advocate, and in 2005, President George W. Bush honored her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House. 

She was married twice, first to Ted White, to whom she said “I do” to in 1961. They later divorced in 1969. In 1978, she married Glynn Turman. They divorced in 1984. 

Franklin is survived by her four sons, whom she had with four different men.

When the singer was 12, she gave birth to Clarence Franklin Jr., after having a relationship with a classmate from school, Donald Burk. She was 14 when she had her second son, Edward Jordan, Jr., after have a relationship with the boy’s father. 

In 1964, she had a child with her first husband and named the boy after him. The boy, who also goes by the name Teddy Richards, often played guitar in his mother’s band. 

Her youngest son, Kecalf Cunningham, was born in 1970 after she had a relationship with road manager Ken Cunningham.

In recent years, the singer had battled health problems which has forced her to cancel a number of concerts and performances.

One of her last performances was in November 2017 when she performed in New York City at an Elton John AIDS Foundation benefit.