Queen of Soul Passes at 76

She taught us all how to R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and made you feel like a natural woman. Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul and Memphis native, has passed away at the age of 76.


She sang about respect, and she earned it.

Aretha Franklin died Thursday after several days on hospice care, a source close to her family told WMC Action News 5.

Franklin was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on March 25, 1942.

She lived in a cottage home on Lucy Avenue, a home now recognized by the city as a historic landmark.

Moments after her death was announced, fans flocked to her childhood home to leave flowers and words of love on the building’s exterior.

Franklin spent just a few years in the Bluff City before her father, a Baptist preacher, moved the family to Detroit.

Her musical talents encompassed not only a powerhouse voice; she was also a gifted pianist.

By age 14, she recorded some of her earliest music in church.

“Her music has a lot of roots in gospel, so it really gets to your core being and when she plays the piano, it’s phenomenal,” Boo Mitchell said.

Mitchell, Royal Studios’ co-owner, has fond memories of his father Willie Mitchell’s time with Franklin.

“My dad and my Uncle James and I think the rest of the Memphis Horns would go to most of her shows and do sessions for her,” Mitchell said. “She sent my dad something for his wedding anniversary and I can’t remember what it was but she signed the card to the maestro.”

Franklin later visited New York and signed with Columbia Records.

Her 1967 cover version of Otis Redding’s “Respect,” written in Memphis at Stax Record Company, helped catapult her to fame.

“And now it’s number five on the Rolling Stones’ Top 500 Songs of All Time,” Tim Sampson, communications director at Stax Museum of American Soul Music, said.

“Next door at the Stax Music Academy, the kids learn a lot of Aretha Franklin’s music, and when they do, you can tell that they feel very honored to be performing music by somebody like Aretha Franklin,” Sampson said.

Stax Museum’s Tim Sampson

Click Here to watch the Stax Museum’s Tim Sampson discuss Aretha’s Legacy

Franklin’s dominance on the charts earned her the title “Queen of Soul.”

“She just had that special something in her voice that was like velvet, but it also had all that soul in it,” Sampson said.

In 1987, she was the first woman to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and only featured singer at President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

In 2003, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“Everybody could relate to Aretha Franklin because when she’d sing, ‘you make me feel like a natural woman,’ you believed her,” Sampson said. “She had a way of connecting with people that few artists ever possessed.”

With 18 Grammy awards, Franklin is one of the most celebrated singers and musicians of all time.

“There will always be awesome singers, but there will only be one Aretha Franklin,” Mitchell said.

Aretha Franklin was 76 years old.

The Memphis community has began to share their condolences on her passing.

Aretha Franklin taught to world what R-E-S-P-E-C-T meant and what it was like to feel like a ‘natural woman.’ From her humble origins — born at 406 Lucy Street in Memphis — to her consistent place atop the Billboard charts, Aretha Franklin was truly the ‘Queen of Soul.’ What a voice and what a passion she brought to her songs. Detroit, Memphis and the whole world has lost a very bright star.” — Congressman Steve Cohen”

Aretha Franklin rose from a small home at 406 Lucy Avenue in Memphis to become the Queen of Soul. Today, we mourn her loss and celebrate the spirit she brought to this world.

The National Museum of African American Music in Nashville also shared a statement on her passing:

“The Queen of Soul” was born in Memphis, steeped in the gospel tradition of her father’s church, and made an indelible impression on American popular music with songs like “Respect” and “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman.” Her powerful voice and skillful songwriting made Aretha Franklin one of the top-selling artists of all time and earned her 18 Grammy awards, along with a Presidential Medal of Freedom, several honorary degrees, an array of lifetime achievement awards and a place in the hearts of all Americans.

Franklin’s influence on subsequent generations of musicians is too pervasive to sum up in a few words; but perhaps President Barack Obama described it best when he said that her music “captures the fullness of the American experience, the bottom as well as the top, the good and the bad, and the possibility of synthesis, reconciliation, transcendence.”

Aretha Franklin was a true genius of American music. We hope that her journey is a peaceful one. While we look forward to celebrating her at the National Museum of African American Music, she will be sorely missed.”

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