Aretha Franklin remembered as 'Queen of Soul' with 'special gifts'

Franklin was born in the United States city of Memphis, Tennessee, to gospel singer parents Clarence and Barbara on March 25, 1942. Her family made Detroit their home just a few short years later and she grew up singing in her dad's house of worship, New Bethel Baptist Church on Linwood. As Franklin put it in her autobiography, she "Aretha-ized" the music. Barbara died weeks before Aretha's 10th birthday.

She was managed by Ted White, a man she married in 1961 at the age of 19 and had another child with three years later. By the time she was 14, Aretha had already given birth to two children: Clarence Franklin, 63, and Edward Franklin, 61.

"I am retiring this year", the singer told a Detroit news station.

That same year she was tapped to sing at the memorial service of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. where she performed a stirring rendition of "Precious Lord, Take My Hand".

The singer also struggled with depression, alcoholism and her weight.

She recorded "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)", an album that included "Respect", an enduring song people immediately think of when they think of Franklin. She would be recognised at the Grammys with a lifetime achievement award in 1994. And who, in the twilight of her career, could get a standing ovation at the drop of a fur coat.

She signed to Columbia Records at the age of 18 with ambitions to emulate the career of singer songwriter Sam Cooke and move into secular pop music.

The decade ended with her receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In 1980, she signed with Clive Davis' Arista Records and delivered a command performance at Albert Hall for Queen Elizabeth.

At the inauguration of Barack Obama in January 2009, where she sang My Country Tis of Thee: An oversized, rhinestone-studded bow, tilting outrageously into Internet infamy.

Rising to fame in the 1960s, perhaps her best known song is the cover of Otis Redding's classic hit Respect, reaching number one in the U.S. and the top ten in the UK. She survived a remarkable eight years after her diagnosis.

Franklin's second marriage was in 1978 to actor Glynn Turman, but the union ended in 1984. She later received two honorary doctorates of music, from Berklee College of Music and Yale University.

Although most subsequent records - like 2011's self-released Aretha: A Woman Falling Out of Love - slipped out quieter than mounting rumors of ill health, 2014's Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics reunited the legend with her public.

Annie Lennox said: "She has reigned supreme. and will always be held in the highest firmament of stars as the most exceptional vocalist, performer and recording artist the world has ever been privileged to witness". In 2016, she booked a show in Sarasota — it would have been her first local gig in more than a decade — only to cancel due to what the venue called "a lack of band personnel".

  • Salvatore Jensen