Fans, performers and presidents have paid tribute to Aretha Franklin, “greatest soul artist of all time”, who died Thursday night (AEST) aged 76.
The woman known for hits such as Respect, I Say a Little Prayer and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, died 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.
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. She will be missed but the memory of her greatness as a musician and a fine human being will live with us forever. Love Paul pic.twitter.com/jW4Gpwfdts
— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) August 16, 2018
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.
Barack Obama said Franklin and her music “helped define the American experience”.
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. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace. pic.twitter.com/bfASqKlLc5
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 16, 2018
“Absolutely heartbroken she’s gone, what a woman. Thank you for everything, the melodies and the movements,” UK music artist Adele posted on Instagram.
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 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.