Days after news broke that legendary singer Aretha Franklin's health was failing, representatives for the music icon now say that she has died at the age of 76.
One hardly knows where to begin when it comes to the greatest hits of Aretha Franklin. Bursting on the scene in the 1950s and '60s, the singer produced such instantly recognizable songs -- tunes that forever would be associated with her name -- as "Respect," "Natural Woman," "I Say A Little Prayer," "Chain of Fools" and "Freeway of Love." That last one showed that the power of Aretha spanned decades, with her signature voice and incomparable style fitting into almost any genre of music, a gift that would keep her near the top of her craft for multiple generations.
Accolades tend to pour in after an icon has passed, and there's no doubt that the Aretha Franklin tributes will begin rolling in momentarily. But the music industry has been celebrating and worshipping her talent for years now, making sure to cement her legacy while she was still here. Mary J. Blige, writing for Rolling Stone in 2008 (via THR) said of the singer:
You know a force from heaven. You know something that God made. And 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.
Thankfully, Aretha Franklin will continue to inspire singers for generations to come with performances such as this blistering rendition of the national anthem at President Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009.
Reports say Aretha Franklin died at home in Detroit, the city where she was raised after being born in Memphis, Tennessee. It's estimated that over the course of her legendary career, Aretha Franklin sold more than 75 million records worldwide, earning 10 Top 10 hits in an 18-month stretch from 1967 on. Her last known concert was back in September, when she performed in Illinois. Franklin leaves behind four children, and two former husbands. And she has a staggering cache of R-E-S-P-E-C-T from a music industry that was forever changed by her talents, and forever enriched by her gifts as a singer and stage performer.