Aretha Franklin: an intense, personal voice

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The cultural icon, whose 1967 signature song, "Respect", became a rallying cry for the U.S. civil rights movement, passed away in Detroit, Michigan on Thursday morning after battling advanced pancreatic cancer.

The singer died at her home in Detroit surrounded by family and loved ones, her family said in a statement. "@BarackObama and I are holding Aretha's family in our hearts right now".

Franklin was back on the charts with the 1985 album, Who's Zoomin' Who?, featuring the hit single "Freeway of Love", and her 1986 duet with singer George Michael, "I Knew You Were Waiting (for Me)", hit No. 1.

"She went on to record a string of Top 10 hits in rapid succession, including "Respect", "Think", "Chain of Fools", "I Say a Little Prayer", and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman".

A professional singer and accomplished pianist by her late teens, a superstar by her mid-20s, Franklin had long ago settled any arguments over who was the greatest popular vocalist of her time. She was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. And when a pinch hitter was needed to fill a big hole in the lineup, Ken Ehrlich, the longtime producer of the Grammys, remembered that Franklin had sung "Nessun dorma" two nights earlier at the MusiCares event honoring her friend Pavarotti.

Her last public performance came last November at Sir Elton's Aids Foundation's 25th anniversary gala in NY.

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The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, has died at the age of 76, her publicist has confirmed. She signed with Arista Records, and in the 1980s and 1990s released songs like "Jump to It", "Freeway of Love" and "A Rose Is Still a Rose". She sang at the inaugurations of Presidents Carter, Clinton and Obama.

"She will be missed but the memory of her greatness as a musician and a fine human being will live with us forever", said Paul McCartney.

"And I just ran up to her dressing room, and asked her if she would do it", Ehrlich told Billboard. Maybe Fox News was just tossing one last jab in during its tribute to the Queen of Soul, but knowing what came out with the official statement, it was probably more of an oversight than diva-level shade.

"Aretha may have passed on to a better place, but the gift of her music remains to inspire us all", the couple wrote. "She will be missed!"

"She performed for 60 years". But we do have a chance to earn something more enduring. All further announcements will be made by her family. In 1969, she laid down the album Spirit in the Dark, an 18-track recording met with rave reviews when it was released in the summer of 1970 - almost 48 years to the day that Franklin passed away.

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