Soul legend Aretha Franklin dies aged 76

Aretha Franklin, the undisputed 'Queen of Soul', has died at age 76.

The Soul legend, who sang with matchless style on such classics as Think, I Say a Little Prayer, and Respect, died from pancreatic cancer.

A statement from her family said "we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart".

Leading the tributes, the godfather of Motown Smokey Robinson told CBS News about the time he first heard Franklin sing when she was just a child.

Recalling the moment he first heard her timeless voice, Robinson said the soul legend sang just like she did "as an adult".

Also paying tribute Stevie Wonder told CBS News about "the greatest gift" the soul legend gave him.

Joining them stars from across the world of music and beyond paid tribute to the singer after the news broke, with Elton John praising "the greatest soul artist of all time", Sir Paul McCartney calling her "the Queen of our souls", US President Donald Trump lauding her "gift", and civil rights leader Revered Jesse Jackson also paying tribute.

Fellow soul singers Sister Sledge, who performed with Aretha on several occasions, told ITV News she was "royalty" adding: "She'll be remembered for not only her music, she'll be remembered for who she was."

Franklin sold more than 75 million records worldwide and won a large number of awards, including 18 Grammys, she was also the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

The star was born Aretha Louise Franklin in Memphis, Tennessee on March 25, 1942, to a travelling Baptist preacher and mother Barbara, an accomplished singer and pianist.

Aretha Franklin in 1972 Credit: AP

Over a glittering career which saw her start off as a gospel singer, Franklin performed publicly for numerous world leaders including the Queen at the Royal Albert Hall, as well as at the inaugurations of US presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

She famously made Barack Obama cry during one performance at the Kennedy Center Honours in 2015.

As well as being a world-renowned singer, Franklin was also a major figure in the civil rights movement with her music – ‘Respect’ became one of the movement’s anthems.

She also sang at the funeral of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr in 1968.

Franklin's family said they were 'not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart'. Credit: PA

The star had four children, two of them born by the time she was 14.

She also married twice, first to guitarist Theodore "Ted" White, and then to actor Glynn Turman.

Earlier in 2018, Franklin cancelled planned concerts on the orders of her doctor who told her to stop travelling so much and to rest, while in 2017 she announced her plans to retire, adding that she would still perform at "some select things" because she could not "just sit down and do nothing".

Franklin's most recent performance was at the 25th Anniversary Gala of the Elton John AIDS Foundation in November.

The singer is thought to have been diagnosed with cancer in 2010 and soon afterwards underwent surgery for an undisclosed tumour, forcing her to cancel a number of shows.

In the years since, Franklin was forced to cancel a number of concerts due due to undisclosed health issues.

Franklin performs at Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration. Credit: AP

On Monday August 13 it was reported that the star was "gravely ill" in a Detroit hospital, and in recent days, the ailing singer was visited by Stevie Wonder, the Rev Jesse Jackson and her ex-husband, actor Glynn Turman.

On Thursday, Franklin's publicist Gwendolyn Quinn told The Associated Press through a family statement that the singer had passed away at her home in Detroit at 9.50am due to "advance pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type".

Details of the star's funeral will be announced in the coming days.

Franklin's family paid tribute to her, saying her death marked "one of the darkest moments" in their lives.

Aretha sings beside then US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in 2011 Credit: AP

Immediately after her death was announced, tributes to the star began pouring in from the world of music and beyond.

Former US President Barack Obama praised Franklin, saying that "every time she sang, we were all graced with a glimpse of the divine".

He continued: "America has no royalty. But we do have a chance to earn something more enduring.

"Born in Memphis and raised in Detroit, Aretha Franklin grew up performing gospel songs in her father’s congregation.

"For more than six decades since, every time she sang, we were all graced with a glimpse of the divine.

"Through her compositions and unmatched musicianship, Aretha helped define the American experience.

"In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade—our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect.

"She helped us feel more connected to each other, more hopeful, more human. And sometimes she helped us just forget about everything else and dance.

"Aretha may have passed on to a better place, but the gift of her music remains to inspire us all.

"May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace.

"Michelle and I send our prayers and warmest sympathies to her family and all those moved by her song."

Civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson tweeted "rest in heavenly peace".

Elton John said: "The loss of Aretha Franklin is a blow for everybody who loves real music...I adored her and worshipped her talent".

While Sir Paul McCartney paid tribute to the "inspiration" Franklin provided others.

Singer Annie Lennox paid tribute to the "one and only Queen of Soul", adding that "Aretha Franklin was simply peerless.

"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.

"Superlatives are often used to describe astonishing singers.. but in my view, even superlatives cannot be sufficient.

"Everyone who loved her will be saying little prayers of gratitude, respect and appreciation for the musical life force that enriched our lives.

"Her voice will soar forever.”

Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox perform at the 25th anniversary of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame concert in 2009. Credit: AP

US President Donald Trump praised Franklin's "wonderful gift from God, her voice".

The daughter of Martin Luther King Jr and president of the organisation set up in his memory, Bernice King, praised Franklin for using her voice to "uplift and inspire" in the "struggle for civil rights".

Singer Carole King tweeted "what a life. What a legacy!"

While musician John Legend tweeted: "Salute to the Queen. The greatest vocalist I've ever known."

Not only did singer and actress Barbara Streisand pay tribute to Franklin's talent as a "uniquely brilliant singer" but also "her commitment to civil rights".

Actor Hugh Jackman said one of the "highlights" of his "career" was singing with Franklin.

Former Oasis singer Liam Gallagher simply tweeted: "what a voice."

New York Mayor Andrew Cuomo also remembered Franklin not just as a singer with the ability to bring "joy", but also "as a leader in the fight for women’s rights and civil rights".