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Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, Has Died at Age 76

She passed away surrounded by family and friends

Megan Vick

Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, died Thursday, Aug. 16, surrounded by friends and family in Detroit, Michigan, TMZ reports. She was 76.

A one-of-a-kind singer whose unmistakable voice left an indelible mark on the music industry, Franklin was reported to be "gravely ill" with cancer shortly before her passing. She spent the last few months of her life outside the public eye as she dealt with her declining health. Her last performance was the 25th anniversary gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which was held in November 2017. Before retiring from performing, however, she had asked audience members to keep her in their prayers.

Born March 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee, Franklin eventually moved to Detroit, where she grew up singing gospel songs. She found success in 1967 when she signed with Atlanta Records and released songs like "Respect," "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" and "Think." These songs would go on to earn her the title of Queen of Soul.

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Since rising to fame in the '60s, Franklin has been cited as the musical inspiration for countless contemporary performers, including Jennifer Hudson and Christina Aguilera. In 1987, she was the first woman to ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Over the course of her career she won 18 Grammy Awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994. She was celebrated at the Kennedy Center Honors that same year and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. She made international headlines in 2008, when she sang "My Country 'Tis of Thee" during President Barack Obama's inauguration.

The celebrated soul singer had suffered various health problems over the years. She canceled shows in 2011 and 2013 to have emergency surgery, though she never publicly disclosed the cause of her health issues.

She is survived by four sons: Clarence, Edward, Ted and Kecalf.

Tributes to the Queen of Soul from famous fans rolled in on social media.

"Hillary and I mourn the loss of our friend Aretha Franklin, one of America's greatest national treasures," President Bill Clinton said in a statement obtained by Variety. For more than 50 years, she stirred our souls. She was elegant, graceful, and utterly uncompromising in her artistry. Aretha's first music school was the church and her performances were powered by what she learned there. I'll always be grateful for her kindness and support, including her performances at both my inaugural celebrations, and for the chance to be there for what sadly turned out to be her final performance last November at a benefit supporting the fight against HIV/AIDS. She will forever be the Queen of Soul and so much more to all who knew her personally and through her music. Our hearts go out to her family and her countless fans." -- President Bill Clinton