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By Judy Kurtz, thehill.com
Aretha Franklin — the “Queen of Soul” who performed for multiple presidents and was one of the best-selling musicians of the 20th century — has died.
The 76-year-old “Respect” and “Think” singer died Thursday in Detroit, her family said in a statement through her publicist.
“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 reads.
“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.”
Franklin’s family said her “official cause of death” was advanced pancreatic cancer.
Raised in Detroit, Franklin grew up singing gospel music at a church where her father was a minister.
The legendary performer, a mother of four, became an 18-time Grammy Award winner during a career spanning more than six decades.
In addition to hit records, over the years Franklin also sang in front of multiple presidents.
In 1977, Franklin took the stage at President Jimmy Carter’s inaugural gala, and in 1993, she performed “I Dreamed a Dream” at President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration.
Franklin was also recognized by more than one commanders in chief. Clinton honored her with the National Medal of the Arts in a 1999 ceremony. President George W. Bush awarded Franklin the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor, in 2005.
The entertainer famously caused then-President Obama to wipe tears from his eyes as she belted out a rousing rendition of “(You Make me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors. The performance would be one of several times Franklin sang before the Obamas, including the 2009 presidential inauguration and at the White House in 2015.
Obama said in 2016 that “nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R&B, rock and roll — the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope” more than Franklin.
Obama added, “American history wells up when Aretha sings.”