The legendary singer-songwriter Aretha Franklin, known widely as the Queen of Soul, died in her Detroit home today, according to her publicist. She was 76.
Known for hits such as “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman” and “Chain of Fools,” Franklin got her start singing gospel in the Detroit church of her famous pastor father, and was signed at an early age to Columbia Records. She became a worldwide star after moving to Atlantic Records in 1967 and working with producer Jerry Wexler, who took her to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where she recorded the funky, soul-baring single “I’ve Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You).”
The song, which includes the raw opening lines—”You’re no good / heartbreaker / You’re a liar and you’re a cheat / And I don’t know why / I let you do you these things to me”—appeared to be a reference to her own tumultuous life, which included two pregnancies at a young age and an abusive relationship.
Franklin went on to be seen as an icon of strength and power with her rendition of “Respect,” which became a feminist and civil rights anthem (paywall). Throughout her career, Franklin netted 18 Grammys, sold more than 75 million records, and was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Rolling Stone named her the greatest singer of all time.
At one of her last public appearances, Franklin performed a rendition of “Natural Woman” at the Kennedy Center that left Michelle and Barack Obama visibly in tears. Following the performance, Franklin told Vogue: “I am a natural woman. I think that women have to be strong. If you don’t, some people will run right over you.”
Here are a few of the star’s notable performances:
Before that last performance, Soul Train host Don Cornelius said it well:
I consider myself very fortunate to have lived on Earth during her career. She deserves all the titles she has been given, for she is the queen, she is the crown princess, she is Lady Soul. She is the unbelievable Aretha Franklin.