Aretha Franklin, known to many as the Queen of Soul, has passed away at the age of 76.

Concerns were raised for the iconic musician’s wellbeing on Monday after a source close to Franklin revealed that she was “gravely ill”, and surrounded by family at a hospital in her native Detroit. After being released into hospice care, the singer spent the last few days surrounded by family and friends in the comfort of her own home.

“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,” the Franklin family said in a statement. “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.”

“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. We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on. As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.”

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First rising to prominence in the mid-’50s after years spent singing gospel music in the church where her father was a minister, Aretha Franklin signed to her first record label in 1960, kickstarting a career that would take the world by storm.

By the end of the decade, Franklin had topped charts around the world with tracks such as ‘Respect’, ‘Think’, and ‘I Say A Little Prayer’, establishing herself as one of the most prominent acts in the R&B and soul genres, and cementing her place as one of the most successful female entertainers in all of musical history.

Nicknamed ‘The Queen Of Soul’, Aretha Franklin’s influence extended far beyond the charts as well, with the musician winning a total of 18 Grammy Awards, three American Music Awards, and also being awarded such honours as being the first female performer in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, being given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom back in 2005.

However, the last decade has been rather rough on the soul legend, with Franklin battling an “unspecified illness” in 2010, which was widely reported to be pancreatic cancer. As the years continued, Franklin’s continued health problems resulted in her being forced to cancel a number of performances.

Back in 2013, Aretha Franklin was quoted as saying that she was “85% healed” from her illness, but declined to go into specifics, noting that she was “not one to go into my personal health things.”

Prior to the recording of her latest album, A Brand New Me, in February of last year, Franklin revealed that she was set to retire from live performances at the end of 2017. “This will be my last year,” the singer explained. “I will be recording, but this will be my last year in concert. This is it.”

While her impending retirement was set to put an end to an illustrious career, Franklin revealed that she would however continue to perform at “some select things”. As it turned out, her last performance was in November of last year, for the Elton John AIDS Foundation in New York, while a number of shows scheduled for this year were also cancelled under doctor’s orders.

Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Aretha Franklin at this difficult time.

Check out Aretha Franklin’s cover of ‘I Say A Little Prayer’:

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