R-E-S-P-E-C-T, we know what it means, don’t we? This was a famous line from “Respect”, a song originally by Otis Redding in 1965 that found new life and new meaning through a 1967 rearrangement by R&B artist Aretha Franklin. This version became an anthem of sorts for the feminist movement at the time, and turned Franklin into an internationally renowned music superstar. And this was no one-hit wonder for her; other songs that are indelibly “hers” include “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”. She was hailed as the Queen of Soul; and thus it is understandable that many around the world are aggrieved by her passing this Thursday.
PEOPLE.com has it that Aretha Franklin has died on the morning of August 16 at the age of 76, following a hard battle with advanced pancreatic cancer. This was confirmed by her publicist, who issued a statement from the late singer’s family to that fact: “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.”
In her later years Franklin has been beset by several health woes. Everything finally came to a head this week with the shocking news that she has been placed in hospice care, an indicator that her death has become “imminent”. “She has been ill for a long time,” the longtime friend told PEOPLE. “She did not want people to know and she didn’t make it public.” Indeed, the revelation of her being in hospice was a complete surprise to many, spurring public vigils and an outpouring of tributes to Franklin.
The Queen of Soul had initially announced back in February 2017 that she was retiring from appearing in the concert scene, though she would still find time to record new material. Aretha Franklin did mention still making “select” performances at certain occasions. Indeed, her final public performance was earlier this August at Philadelphia’s Mann Center, and it was here that fans first had inklings, based on significant changes to her physical appearance, that something might be wrong with her health. In fact, two concerts planned earlier in March and April got cancelled over health concerns, though nobody at the time had any idea just how bad her condition actually was.
Flowers have been left at her star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and condolences poured in from close friends and celebrity acquaintances like former US President Barack Obama. Franklin had sung “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” at Obama’s first Presidential Inauguration back in 2009.
Image courtesy of Vox