The woman known for hits such as “Respect”, “I Say a Little Prayer” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, died on Thursday at her home in Detroit from pancreatic cancer after a long struggle with health problems.
The US Recording Academy, the body that presents the Grammy Awards, called the 18-time Grammy winner an “incomparable artist” and “one of the most profound voices in music.”
Her powerful voice was “a glimpse of the divine,” Barack and Michelle Obama said of Franklin, who sang at Obama’s first presidential inauguration in 2009.
Fans paid their respects by laying flowers at her Hollywood Walk of Fame star in Los Angeles and remembering her on social media, where fellow musicians also saluted her.
“What a life. What a legacy! So much love, respect and gratitude,” wrote Carole King, who co-wrote “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”.
The Beatles’ Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr also celebrated the singer’s legacy.
“She will be missed but the memory of her greatness as a musician and a fine human being will live with us forever,” McCartney tweeted.
Elton John hailed her as the “greatest soul artist of all time.”
“The loss of Aretha Franklin is a blow for everybody who loves real music: Music from the heart, the soul and the church,” he said in a statement.
Franklin’s family said the singer’s death was “one of the darkest moments in our lives” but that they were “deeply touched” by the tributes.
“We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family. The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins knew no bounds,” their statement read.
US President Donald Trump tweeted that Franklin was “a great woman” whose voice was “a wonderful gift from God.”
The soul legend’s music quickly climbed the iTunes’ charts following her death.
Her 30 Greatest Hits album hit the No. 1 spot, replacing Nicki Minaj’s new album, while “Respect” reached No. 2 on the songs’ charts.
More songs from Franklin, including “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, “Think”, “Chain of Fools” and “I Say A Little Prayer”, were in the Top 40.
The singer was visited by US icons including Stevie Wonder and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson in the last days of her life.
Franklin was born in 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee. Her career began at an early age in gospel, a tradition she never completely abandoned, even as she moved into jazz and secular music.
She recorded her first gospel album at age 14 and was soon signed by the Motown label when it was still a small start up.
Her real breakthrough came in 1967 when her version of Otis Redding’s “Respect” surged to the top of the R&B charts and stayed there for eight weeks.
Funeral arrangements are expected to be announced in coming days.
Tributes to Aretha
“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.” – Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, in a statement.
“The most consistent voice in music for 60 years has been Aretha Franklin’s voice… The world of music has lost a bit of its soul.” – Jesse Jackson, in an Associated Press interview.
“It’s a sad day but what a glorious lady. Her voice says it all!” – Keith Richards, via Instagram.
“The power of your voice in music and in civil rights blew open the door for me and so many others. You were my inspiration, my mentor and my friend.” – Mariah Carey, via Twitter.
“What a life. What a legacy! So much love, respect and gratitude. R.I.P.” – Carole King, via Twitter.
“She is now in the pantheon of God’s greats, in the bosom of family.” – Whoopi Goldberg, via Twitter.
“Her voice; her presence; her style
No one did it better
Truly the Queen of Soul
I will miss you!” – Lionel Richie, in a statement.
“The loss of Aretha Franklin is a blow for everybody who loves real music: Music from the heart, the soul and the Church. – Elton John, via Instagram.
“We have lost another legend from the civil rights era.” – Dr. Bernice A. King, in a statement.
“She was a great woman, with a wonderful gift from God, her voice. She will be missed!” – Donald Trump, via Twitter.
“Let’s all take a moment to give thanks for the beautiful life of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of our souls, who inspired us all for many, many years.” – Paul McCartney, via Twitter.