Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul”, has died aged 76.
Franklin was a music legend who was loved by millions. Her career spanned six decades.
She influenced generations of female singers with unforgettable hits including Respect (1967), Natural Woman (1968) and I Say a Little Prayer (1968). She died at her home in Detroit, in the US state of Michigan, on Thursday from pancreatic cancer.
The multiple Grammy winner cemented her place in US music history with a powerful, bell-clear voice, and her hits spanned from soul and R'n'B, to gospel and pop.
“It is with deep and profound sadness that we announce the passing of Aretha Louise Franklin, the Queen of Soul,” a statement issued by her family said.
“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 family thanked fans around the world for their “outpouring of love” since it first emerged earlier this week that she was very ill.
Fans mourning the death of Franklin left flowers and mementos at Detroit’s New Bethel Baptist Church, where as a child the star kicked off her career singing gospel.
In a tribute from the Obamas, former US President Barack Obama and his wife praised Franklin’s “unmatched musicianship”, which they said “helped define the American experience”.
“Every time she sang, we were all graced with a glimpse of the divine,” the Obamas said. “In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade – our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. She helped us feel more connected to each other, more hopeful, more human.
“And sometimes she helped us just forget about everything else and dance.”