After a glittering five-decade career, music icon Aretha Franklin is retiring

Queen of soul.
Queen of soul.
Image: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton
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Known for good reason as the queen of soul, 74-year-old Aretha Franklin will retire later this year, after a run of more than five decades in the music business.

The singer—who’s graced every stage from the Super Bowl to the White House, and whose instantly recognizable hits ”Respect” and “Think” remain timeless radio hits—told a Detroit TV station this week that “this will be my last year in concert.” Franklin noted that before stepping out of the limelight, she’ll release one last album, partly produced by fellow music icon Stevie Wonder, and dedicated to the city of Detroit.

Among Franklin’s devoted fans is former US president Barack Obama, who invited the singer to perform at his 2009 inauguration (as did Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter) and was seen wiping a tear away from his face during a concert of hers in 2015. Said Obama to the New Yorker last year (paywall):

You can hear Aretha’s influence across the landscape of American music, no matter the genre. What other artist had that kind of impact? Dylan. Maybe Stevie, Ray Charles. The Beatles and the Stones—but, of course, they’re imports. The jazz giants like Armstrong. But it’s a short list. And if I’m stranded on a desert island, and have ten records to take, I know she’s in the collection. For she’ll remind me of my humanity. What’s essential in all of us. And she just sounds so damn good. Here’s a tip: when you’re deejaying a party, open with ‘Rock Steady.’

Franklin, while saying she feels “enriched and satisfied” with her impressively long career, adds she does not plan to “just sit down and do nothing” from here on out—though she didn’t elaborate on what projects she might pick up.

The singer has battled health problems in recent years and plans to use her retirement to spend more time with her grandchildren. She won’t be leaving the industry with regrets: over her career, Franklin has racked up 18 Grammy awards and more than 75 million album sales, not to mention Rolling Stone magazine’s designation as the greatest singer of all time.