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Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul, Dies At 76
Aretha Franklin, a legendary and deeply influential R&B artist, died on Aug. 16 at age 76. The cause was of advanced pancreatic cancer.
Franklin was the daughter of two gospel singers and began singing and playing piano at a young age. As a teenager she started singing in the choir at the church where her father preached and recorded backup vocals on her father's gospel albums. In 1961, at the age of 18, she was signed to Columbia Records and released her first album, Aretha.
In 1967, just six years after her debut album, she started garnering widespread acclaim and began her reign as the original R&B queen with her hit album I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You. The album included her iconic cover of Otis Redding's "Respect," for which she earned her first No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, and her first two GRAMMY wins for Best R&B Recording and Best R&B Solo Vocal Performance, Female at the 10th GRAMMY Awards.
Franklin would go on to earn a total of 44 GRAMMY nominations and a historic 18 wins in her lifetime. Her total wins make her one of the most awarded GRAMMY artists of all time. She graced the GRAMMY stage with her legendary soulful sound a total of eight times, putting her in a tie with Whitney Houston as the runner up for the most GRAMMY performances by a female artist.
In addition to her many GRAMMY Awards, she has been honored by The Recording Academy on multiple occasions. Franklin received the GRAMMY Legend Award in 1991, which is presented "to individuals or groups for ongoing contributions and influence in the recording field," and is one of just 15 artists to receive this special award since its inception in 1990. She was also honored by the Academy with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994. On top of that, five of her recordings have been inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame: "Respect," "Chain Of Fools," "Amazing Grace," "A Natural Woman (You Make Me Feel Like)," and "I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You."
Not only did Franklin make monumental contributions to the music world during her lifetime, she also helped make the world a better place outside of the music she made. She supported several charities and advocacy organizations including the NAACP, the Special Olympics, Feeding America, The Rainforest Foundation, and the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes. In 2005 President Clinton awarded her with The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S. The Recording Academy also acknowledged her huge positive impact on the world, honoring her as the 2008 MusiCares Person of the Year.
Franklin and her prolific musical career have had a far-reaching influence on musicians over the years and across genres, with many offering their condolences for the Queen of Soul. Following a hospitalization in 2010, the 53rd GRAMMY Awards featured special performances as part of an Aretha Franklin Tribute, with artists such as fellow GRAMMY-winners Jennifer Hudson and Christina Aguilera covering her hits to honor the legend.
Franklin was truly influential throughout her life, most recently celebrating her 100th chart-topping single with her cover of Adele's "Rolling In The Deep." With the release of the single in 2014, she became the first female artist to place 100 career titles on the Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, and remains in the lead, tied with Stevie Wonder and ahead of Drake, for the most No. 1 singles on the chart with 20 total.
"Aretha Franklin was an incomparable artist who came to be recognized as one of the most profound voices in music," said Neil Portnow, President and CEO of the Recording Academy. "Her distinctive sound, unforgettable recordings, and giving spirit will continue to be celebrated worldwide. Aretha will be dearly missed, and our thoughts go out to her loved ones during this difficult time."
Thanks to her long, outstanding career and her deep impact in the soul, R&B, and pop music worlds, Franklin leaves a legacy that will continue to inspire artists for generations to come.