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ARETHA FRANKLIN, the undoubted Queen of Soul, has died in Detroit at the age of 76 after a long fight with cancer.
Among the myriad tributes from the high and mighty of popular music, others praised her work and continuing commitment to the civil rights movement.
Former president Barack Obama, at whose 2009 inauguration she sang, said Franklin’s music “helped define the American experience.
“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. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace.”
Civil rights campaigners Reverend Jesse Jackson and Reverend Al Sharpton paid tribute to their friend and political comrade of decades.
The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) also released a statement celebrating her life and contribution cause.
“No-one can discuss the civil rights movement nor music without paying respect to the Queen of Soul,” NAACP chairman Leon W Russell said.
In 1970 it was reported that Franklin offered to post bail for civil rights activist and CPUSA member Angela Davis who was then being held on charges of having assisted a courtroom breakout by George Jackson and the Soledad Brothers.
She told Jet magazine: “Angela Davis must go free. Black people will be free. I’ve been locked up (for disturbing the peace in Detroit) and I know you’ve got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace.”
Franklin sang with one of the most distinctive voices in the history of popular music. In a 50-year recording career she racked up 20 Top 10 albums, a dozen million-selling singles and earned no fewer than 18 Grammy awards.
She was an artist of incredible versatility, her powerful voice embracing jazz, soul and rhythm and blues. Rolling Stone magazine rated her as the greatest singer of all time.
Aretha Louise Franklin was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on March 25 1942. She was the daughter of a Baptist minister and his wife Barbara, an accomplished gospel singer.
She was just six when the family moved to Detroit. There the young Franklin learned to play the piano and began singing in her father’s church. When the family broke up, her mother moved to Buffalo, New York, where she died from a heart attack aged 34.
Her father CL became a respected figure among Detroit’s black community and his church a centre for gospel music. At the age of just 14, Franklin released her first record and had her first child, a son, Clarence. She had a second child, Edward, when she was 16. Her grandmother offered to raise the two boys.
Contracts with various companies followed, but it wasn’t until she signed with Atlantic Records in 1966 that she found real direction.
Her first Atlantic release, I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You), proved to be her breakthrough, going to number one in the rhythm and blues charts and reaching number nine in the pop charts.
Her second Atlantic single became her best-known song. Her gospel-tinged rendition of Otis Redding’s Respect went to number one in the US charts and reached number 10 in Britain. The song became a feminist anthem, as well as winning two Grammys.
In 1987 Franklin became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, while in 1994 she received a Grammy award for lifetime achievement.
The whole world of popular music is queuing up to pay their tributes but more important is the world of still oppressed black Americans who know Franklin always sang for them.
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