Legendary singer Aretha Franklin, “The Queen of Soul,” is gravely ill, family members told Detroit news outlet Local 4 on Monday.
“I am so saddened to report that the Queen of Soul and my good friend, Aretha Franklin is gravely ill,” the station’s Evord Cassimy tweeted. “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.” The news was first reported by Showbiz 411 and later by TMZ, both citing unnamed family members.
Franklin underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer in December 2010 and has frequently been ill, while keeping a regular concert schedule, in the years since. She last performed in November at the Elton John AIDS Foundation Gala.
The singer, 76, was born in Memphis and is the daughter of the pastor and civil rights activist C. L. Franklin. She showed great talent as a child singing and playing piano in the church, and signed with Columbia Records as a teenager; the label attempted to fashion her as a pop singer. Yet she truly became Aretha Franklin after signing with Atlantic Records in 1966, releasing a succession of albums and singles of unparalleled power and emotional depth, including songs like “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman,” “Respect,” “Think” and many others.
Franklin is the most lionized and lauded female R&B vocalist of her era. Winner of 18 Grammy Awards, and a Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement honoree in 1994, she became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. She was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honors.
More to come …