Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul, dies at age 76

DETROIT — Aretha Franklin, the undisputed "Queen of Soul" who sang with matchless style on such classics as "Think," ''I Say a Little Prayer" and her signature song, "Respect," and stood as a cultural icon around the globe, has died at age 76 from advance pancreatic cancer.

Publicist Gwendolyn Quinn tells The Associated Press through a family statement that Franklin passed Thursday at 9:50 a.m. at her home in Detroit. The statement said "Franklin's official cause of death was due to advance pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin's oncologist, Dr. Philip Phillips of Karmanos Cancer Institute" in Detroit.

[RELATED: A timeline of the best Aretha Franklin songs]

The family added: "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."

Channel 2's Berndt Petersen spoke with a local brother and sister who had been friends with the singer for 60 years -- since she was a teenager.

Aaron and Susan Cuthbert met Franklin as a teenager and remained friends. To friends, the 'Queen of Soul' was known affectionately as 'Re-Re.'

"She's family," Susan Cuthbert said. " This morning when I head she had gone, of course it hurt.  But it was absolutely a pleasure to have known her. Beautiful lady. Not just singing. I mean her soul. Beautiful."

The Cuthberts said they are sure Franklin is singing in Heaven today.

"There's no one else like Aretha," Cuthbert continued. "There will never be another Aretha. Beautiful lady. Lovely lady. We call her the queen----she was the queen. In every way."

The King Center in Atlanta released a statement about her death.

We have lost another legend from the civil rights era. From the time she was a teenager, Ms. Franklin has been singing freedom songs in support of my father and others in the struggle for civil rights," Dr. Bernice King said. "As a daughter of the movement, she not only used her voice to entertain but to uplift and inspire generations through songs that have become anthems such as 'Respect' and 'Bridge over Troubled Water.'

"After my father’s assassination, her relationship with my mother continued and grew stronger. She was one of the many artists that joined my mother in her unwavering efforts to establish the King Holiday. When my mother passed in 2006, she tried desperately to get to Atlanta for her service but was hindered by the winter weather in Detroit. As talented as she was as a singer and songwriter, Ms. Franklin’s legacy extends far beyond that of a dynamic singer and entertainer. She was a shining example of how to utilize the arts and entertainment to support and promote nonviolent social change. On behalf of The King Center family, I extend my deepest sympathy to the Franklin family. Ms. Franklin was a good and faithful servant and she will be sorely missed."

Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported the legendary singer and songwriter was gravely ill.

The "Queen of Soul" canceled planned concerts earlier this year after she was ordered by her doctor to stay off the road and rest up.


Last year, the 76-year-old icon announced her plans to retire, saying she would perform at "some select things."

Franklin was born March 25, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee. Her family moved to Detroit when she was young.

[PHOTOS: Aretha Franklin through the years]

Franklin started singing when she was young, with encouragement from her mother, Barbara, and her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin. She started out singing gospel, but launched a career in secular music after she turned 18. She rose to fame after signing in 1967 with Atlantic Records.

Franklin’s career, spanning six decades, has spawned hits including “Respect,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “Chain of Fools.” 

Franklin’s earned 18 Grammy Awards and a Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work. In 2005, then-President George W. Bush described Franklin as “a woman of achievement, deep character and a loving heart.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.