Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul, Dead at 76

The Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin, has died at 76. The singer was one of America’s greatest and most legendary. The cause was advanced pancreatic cancer, her publicist, Gwendolyn Quinn, said.

Her signature son “Respect,” an Otis Redding song, was never just about how a woman wanted to be greeted by a spouse coming home from work, The New York Times reports. It was a demand for equality and freedom and a harbinger of feminism, carried by a voice that would accept nothing less.

Additionally, Aretha placed more than 100 singles in the Billboard charts, including 17 Top 10 pop singles and 20 No. 1 R&B hits. She received 18 competitive Grammy Awards, along with a lifetime achievement award in 1994. She was the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, in 1987, its second year. She sang at the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009, at pre-inauguration concerts for Jimmy Carter in 1977 and Bill Clinton in 1993, and at both the Democratic National Convention and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral in 1968.

Mary J. Blige once said of her, “Aretha is a gift from God. When it comes to expressing yourself through song, there is no one who can touch her. She is the reason why women want to sing.”

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