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Aretha Franklin! The beat stops for ‘Queen Of Soul’

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• Legend, Jackman, Rhimes, Davis, Others Pay Tributes
The global entertainment firmament was on Thursday thrown into mourning as the beat suddenly stopped for the undisputed ‘Queen of Soul’, Aretha Franklin, who was famous for her matchless style on classics such as Think, I Say a Little Prayer and her signature song, Respect, bow out of the world stage following her death at age 76 from advanced pancreatic cancer.

Born March 25, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee, the American singer and songwriter began her career as a child, singing gospel at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, where her father, Reverend C.L Franklin, a powerful local figure who befriended Martin Luther King, Dinah Washington, Sam Cooke and gospel great Mahalia Jackson, was minister.
She recorded her first gospel album, Songs of Faith, in 1956, aged 14, but she also appreciated blues, jazz, Broadway and doo-wop, and picked up tips from Cooke, another singer who ended up migrating from church to secular music.

By the middle of the 1950s, she was already a big deal. Between 1968 and 1975, she won the Grammy for best R&B female vocal performance every single year, until people nickname the award ‘the Aretha’. With 18 Grammy to her kitty, Aretha became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Her career, which span over half a century, saw her record hundreds of tracks and dozens of hits, including 20 that reached No.1 on the R&B charts.

After signing to Atlantic Records in 1967, her reputation was defined by an extraordinary run of top 10 smashes in the late 1960s from the morning-after bliss of You (Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, to the wised-up Chain of Fools and her unstoppable call for Respect, which all brought her commercial acclaim and success.

Aretha’s most acclaimed gospel recording came in 1972 with the Grammy-winning album Amazing Grace, which was recorded live at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in South Central Los Angeles and featured gospel legend, James Cleveland, along with her own father, Mick Jagger, who was one of the celebrities in the audience.

By her late teens, she was already a professional singer and accomplished pianist, and a superstar by her mid-20s. In 1960, at the age of 18, she embarked on a secular career, recording for Columbia Records but achieved only modest success.

Aretha’s gifts, natural and acquired, were a multi-octave mezzo-soprano. Her passion for the gospel and training worthy of a preacher’s daughter, were taste sophisticated and eccentric, while the courage to channel private pain into liberating song stood her out as a world class singer.“If I’m writing and I’m producing and singing too, you get more of me that way, rather than having four or five different people working on one song,” Aretha told The Detroit News in 2003.

The title ‘Queen of Soul’ was an honorific thrust upon her by the Chicago radio DJ Pervis Spann during her first flush of fame, but it ended up being a job for life. Decades later, when Mojo and Rolling Stone ran polls to find the greatest singer of all time, Aretha topped both and nobody was either surprised or disappointed. “Music is my thing, it’s who I am. I’m in it for the long run. I will be around, singing, ‘What you want, baby I got it.’ Having fun all the way,” she also told The Associated Press in 2008.

Fellow singers bowed to her eminence, even as political and civic leaders treated her as a peer. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was a longtime friend, and she sang at the dedication of King’s memorial in 2011. She performed at the inaugurations of Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and at the funeral for civil rights pioneer, Rosa Parks.President George W. Bush awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 2005, while Clinton honoured with the National Medal of Arts.

Aretha’s best-known appearance with a president was in January 2009, when she sang My Country ‘tis of Thee at Barack Obama’s inauguration. In 2015, she brought Obama and others to tears with a triumphant performance of Natural Woman at a Kennedy Center tribute to the song’s co-writer, Carole King.

Married from 1961 to 1969 to her manager, Ted White, their battles was widely believed to have inspired her performances on several songs, including (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone, Think and her heartbreaking ballad of despair, Ain’t No Way.She only released a few albums over the past two decades, including A Rose is Still a Rose, which featured songs by Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs (P.Diddy), Lauryn Hill and other contemporary artistes, and So Damn Happy, for which she wrote the gratified title ballad.

In 2017, Aretha announced her retirement from touring following severe battle with advance pancreatic cancer, which affected her health seriously. Publicist Gwendolyn Quinn in a statement signed and issued by the singer’s family on Thursday, told The Associated Press the singer died at 9:50 am, at her home in Detroit, Michigan, United States.

“In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. 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.” “Franklin’s official cause of death was due to advance pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin’s oncologist, Dr. Philip Phillips of Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit,” the statement read in parts.

The statement continued: “We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world. Thank you for your compassion and prayers. We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on. As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.”The social media got buzzing with tributes from celebrities and musicians as soon as the news of the singer’s death filtered. Among celebrities who took to the social to express their tribute is John Legend, who through his twitter handle @johnlengend wrote: “Salute to the Queen. The greatest vocalist I’ve ever known.”

Shonda Rhimes @shondarhimes wrote: “Aretha Franklin (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” For Idina Menzel @idinamenzel it was: “Goodbye Ms. Aretha. You were my idol. The greatest singer of all time. Every note you sang was pure and authentic and pierced our hearts with joy and pain and life.”

According to Lenny Kravitz @LennyKravitz: “The Queen of Soul has left this earth to sit on her throne in heaven. How blessed we were to hear the best that God had to offer in her voice. RESPECT!
Clive Davis @CliveDavis wrote: “I’m absolutely devastated by Aretha’s passing. She was truly one of a kind. She was more than the Queen of Soul. She was a national treasure to be cherished by every generation throughout the world.” While Hugh Jackman @RealHughJackman note: “One of the highlights of my career was singing with #ArethaFranklin at the Tony Awards. It was an out of body experience for me. One of greatest singers of all time. You will be missed by all.”


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