Aretha Franklin, the legendary “Queen of Soul” and one of the best-selling singers of all time, died at 9:50 a.m. on Thursday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 76.
“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,” Franklin’s family said in a statement to the Associated Press. “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.”
The “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 included.
According to the Local 4 news channel in Detroit, Franklin spent her final moments “resting and surrounded by family and friends.”
Franklin was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2010 but the singer never addressed the diagnosis publicly.
People reports that although Franklin “has been ill for a long time she did not want people to know and she didn’t make it public.”
In February 2017, Franklin announced her retirement from performing except for “some select things.” Her final performance was at Elton John’s AIDS Foundation Gala in November 2017 where she sang a few of her classic hits.
She had also scheduled performances in Newark, New Jersey in March on her 76th birthday and in April at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Both shows were canceled due to doctor’s orders that she rest “for at least the next two months.”
The Memphis native kicked off her career singing gospel at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit. After signing with Atlantic Records in 1967, Franklin became a household name with a number of hit songs over the decades such as “Respect,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” ”Think, “Chain Of Fools,” ”Something He Can Feel,” and “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” featuring George Michael.
She would go on to win 18 Grammy Awards in the span of her career. Franklin also had the honor of becoming the first female performer to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
Her final album, “A Brand New Me,” a collaboration with Stevie Wonder, is expected to be released in November. A biopic had been in the works prior to her death starring Jennifer Hudson as Franklin.