Aretha Franklin dead at age 76, publicist confirms

Aretha Franklin has died at the age of 76.

The singer, often referred to as the Queen of Soul, passed away on Thursday morning at 9:50 a.m. at her home in Detroit, her publicist Gwendolyn Quinn confirmed to the Associated Press on Thursday morning.

"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 Karamonos Cancer Institute," the statement read.

"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," her family said in a statement. "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."

"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," Franklin's family's statement continued. "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."

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Franklin's passing follows reports that she was "gravely ill" in hospice care at home in Detroit, Michigan that surfaced on Monday, August 13. Showbiz 411's Roger Friedman was the first to report on Franklin's recent decline in health, noting that she was surrounded by family and friends.

The 18-time Grammy winner had never publicly confirmed that she was suffering from any illness, despite years of reports that she had been diagnosed with cancer. Those close to her say that Franklin was first diagnosed back in 2010, when she was forced to cancel a string of performances and underwent surgery for an undisclosed ailment.

In February of 2017, Franklin announced that she was retiring from touring but would continue to perform at select events. Last summer, in August, she performed in Philadelphia, which was her last public performance. Months later, in November, she delivered what would be her final performance at a private event for Elton John's AIDS foundation. That same month, she released her final album, "A Brand New Me."

Franklin, who was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on March 25, 1942, started singing gospel music at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, where her father was a minister. At the age of 18, she was signed to Columbia Records, but her commercial success didn't come until she signed to Atlantic Records in 1967. Some of her first singles at the label included such career-defining songs as "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)," "(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman" and "Respect," which shot to No. 1 on multiple charts and would go on to become a worldwide anthem.

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Other early hits included "Chain of Fools," "Think" and "I Say A Little Prayer." After her chart successes slowed down in the mid-'70s, Franklin went on to sign with Clive Davis' Arista Records in 1980. She achieved her final Top 40 hit with "A Rose Is Still a Rose," produced by Lauryn Hill, in 1998.

Throughout her career, she would go on to sell over 75 million records, be nominated for 44 Grammys (winning 18 of them), become the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and become the youngest-ever recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor at the age of 52 in 1994.

In 2005, President George W. Bush awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and she also performed at the inaugurations of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. In addition, Franklin sang at the memorial service for longtime friend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and memorably filled in for Luciano Pavarotti at the 1998 Grammy Awards with just two hours notice, singing "Nessun Dorma" in an emotional performance considered to be one of the best in the award show's history.

Franklin has four children, the first of which she had at the age of 12, in 1955. She was also married twice: First to Theodore "Ted" White in 1961. They went on to divorce in 1969. She then married actor Glynn Turman in 1978 before getting separated in 1982 and divorced in 1984. She also had a longtime companion in Willie Wilkerson, who she was connected to for several decades later in life.

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