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Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin Dead at 76


The music legend was not only a role model, but an ally.

Music superstar Aretha Franklin, who famously sang at a prominent gay couple's wedding in 2011 and symbolized black pride and female liberation, died at home in her beloved Detroit on Thursday.

Franklin became known as the "queen of soul" due to a string of hits in the late 1960s. In her youth, she sang in the choir at the Detroit church led by her father, Rev. C.L. Franklin. She was signed to Columbia Records in the early 1960s by legendary talent scout John Hammond, but she had greater success with the Atlantic label in the latter half of the decade, with such hits as "Respect," "I Never Loved a Man," "Chain of Fools," "Baby I Love You," "I Say a Little Prayer," "Think," and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman."

She continued to make hit records throughout the 1970s and '80s. Her notable '80s recordings included "Freeway of Love" and "I Knew You Were Waiting for Me," the latter a duet with George Michael, both for Arista. She has also contributed to various film soundtracks.

She was nominated for 44 Grammy Awards and won 18, including a Lifetime Achievement Award, and she has five recordings in the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 1987, she became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Over the past decade Franklin had a variety of health problems, but she generally declined to discuss specifics. She canceled several appearances under doctor's orders in 2010, but in October of 2011 she performed at the wedding of Bill White, a former museum curator, and Bryan Eure, an insurance executive, in New York City. She sang "I Will Always Love You," "I Say a Little Prayer," and "Respect" at the ceremony, which was officiated by David Boies, one of the attorneys who helped bring down California's anti-marriage equality Proposition 8.

She largely retired from the concert stage last year but said she would continue to perform at a few select events. Among the select events was the Elton John AIDS Foundation's Enduring Vision benefit gala last November, People notes. It was her final public performance, according to CNN.

Among other connections to the black and LGBTQ civil rights movements, in the early 1970s Franklin offered to bail Angela Davis out of jail. Davis, a college professor and radical activist who identified as a communist, was charged with kidnapping and murder after it was found that guns used in an attack that left a California judge dead were registered to her. Davis was eventually freed on bail with funds from other sources and acquitted of the charges; in the 1990s, she came out as lesbian. When making the bail offer, Franklin said she was doing so "not because I believe in Communism but because [Davis] is a black woman and she wants freedom for black people."

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