Aretha Franklin dead at 76

(Image credit: Paul Natkin)

Aretha Franklin has died at the age of 76, it's been announced.

The American singer/songwriter known as the Queen Of Soul had been battling pancreatic cancer, with news of her death confirmed by her publicist Gwendolyn Quinn.

Quinn says in a statement (via Rolling Stone): "It is with deep and profound sadness that we announce the passing of Aretha Louise Franklin, the Queen of Soul. She passed away on Thursday morning at her home in Detroit surrounded by family and loved ones. 

"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."

The statement continues: “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.”

Earlier this year, the 18-time Grammy winner was forced to cancel a number of planned shows over health concerns, with doctors ordering her to rest for two months.

Franklin was born on March 25, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee, and began her career singing gospel at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit.

She went on to sign with Columbia Records and recorded a string of classic tracks including Respect, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, Think, I Say a Little Prayer, Chain Of Fools and Baby I Love You.

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

Paul McCartney

Franklin sold more than 75 million records over her career and recorded more than 100 Billboard-charted singles. 

Franklin also became the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1987 and performed Precious Lord at the funeral of Dr Martin Luther King Jr in 1968. 

Franklin recored The Weight with Duane Allman in 1969 and famously appeared in 1980 film The Blues Brothers alongside John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd.

Tributes from across the music world have already started to pour in, with Paul McCartney saying: "Let’s all take a moment to give thanks for the beautiful life of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of our souls, who inspired us all for many many years. 

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

Elton John said Franklin's death was "a blow for everybody who loves real music: Music from the heart, the soul and the Church."

He added: "Her voice was unique, her piano playing underrated – she was one of my favourite pianists. 

"I adored her and worshipped her talent. God bless her. My condolences to all her family and friends. We shared the same birthday – and that meant so much to me. The whole world will miss her but will always rejoice in her remarkable legacy. The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen."