Music legend Aretha Franklin is “gravely ill” and surrounded by family and friends in Detroit, reports said Monday, as prayers and well wishes poured in for the Grammy-winning ‘Queen of Soul’.
The 76-year-old Franklin — who influenced generations of pop divas with hits such as “Respect” (1967), “Natural Woman” (1968) and “I Say a Little Prayer” (1968) — was said to be at a Detroit hospital and has asked that details of her condition not be made public.
Franklin cemented her place in American music history with her powerful, bell-clear voice that stretched over four octaves — in her decades-long career, her hits spanned the genres, from soul to R&B to gospel and pop.
She was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
Franklin’s serious condition was first disclosed on the Showbiz 411 website late Sunday by Roger Friedman, a reporter and family friend. He wrote that she was “gravely ill in Detroit. The family is asking for prayers and privacy.”
Local television stations later confirmed Franklin’s illness.
“Right now, Aretha is asking people here in the city of Detroit, where she calls home, to pray for her,” WDIV journalist Evrod Cassimy said on air, adding that Franklin had asked the network not to disclose any details.
Robert Smith, the current pastor at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit where Franklin’s father was the reverend, told AFP that Franklin’s representatives asked him Monday to “keep praying for her.”
“Everybody’s fearful,” Smith said. “I really don’t know what it would be like not to have her.”
Artists from across the musical spectrum offered well wishes to the legendary singer who has lived in Detroit — the Motor City, the home of Motown music — most of her life.
“My prayers are with Aretha Franklin and her family during this difficult time,” tweeted rapper Missy Elliott. “We MUST CELEBRATE the Living Legends while they are here to see it. So many have given us decades of Timeless music.”
Boy George said: “This is sad news. Aretha Franklin, what a voice.”
– Legacy in American music –
Franklin — who is mainly known by only her first name, in true diva style — rose from singing gospel in her father’s church to regularly the top rhythm and blues and pop charts in the 1960s and 1970s.
Beyond “Respect,” her powerful cover of the Otis Redding tune that became her calling card, Franklin had dozens of Top 40 singles, according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Other hits include “Day Dreaming” (1972), “Jump to It” (1982), “Freeway of Love” (1985), and “A Rose Is Still A Rose” (1998).
Her style influenced pop divas from Mariah Carey and the late Whitney Houston — whose mother was a backup singer for Franklin — to Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige and Amy Winehouse.
She won 18 Grammy awards throughout her storied career, including one for Lifetime Achievement.
In 2005, Franklin was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest award for an American civilian — by then-president George W. Bush.
She sang at the inaugurations of two presidents — Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
But in 2010, she suffered serious health problems. She nevertheless continued to perform until late last year.
Franklin last sang in November 2017 for the Elton John AIDS Foundation in New York. That same year, Detroit named a street after her.