In the end, it was pancreatic cancer. There were rumours as far back as 2011 that she’s been suffering from one of the most horrible of all the cancers. When you’re diagnosed, you’re automatically placed at Stage 4. Although she fought gamely for years, her health declined to the point where she was sent home in hospice care, her weight down to less than 85 pounds. (Here’s a picture of her from 2017. She was still able to perform back then, so you might imagine how her health deteriorated since then)
Aretha was said to be alert, chatty and laughing almost to the end as she spoke, texted and tweeted to friends and family from her bed. But after years–decades, really–of health issues, she finally passed away this morning at the age of 76. Here’s her obituary from The Detroit News and a nice look at her career from CNN.
Unclear as to what her contributions to music were? Read this.
This piece is from Amber Healey over at brother site, GeeksAndBeats.com.
Aretha Franklin, the queen of soul and all hearts, has died at the age of 76, the Associated Press and other outlets reported Thursday morning.
Her representative told the AP Franklin had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, an illness she denied having in recent years despite a history of cancer in her family.
A singer’s singer and a soul musicians’ soul musician, she earned praise and admiration from her fellow performers throughout her career.
“I don’t know anybody that can sing a song like Aretha Franklin,” Ray Charles once said. “Nobody. Period.”
In her biography, written by Mark Bego, she talked about a song’s relatability as an important entry point for her.
“If a song’s about something I’ve experienced or that could’ve happened to me, it’s good. But if it’s alien to me, I couldn’t lend anything to it… I look for something meaningful. When I go into the studio, I put everything into it. Even the kitchen sink.”
In her last days, she was visited by Stevie Wonder and Rev. Jessie Jackson, while countless tributes poured in. Earlier this week, Clive Davis, who signed Franklin to Arista Records in 1980, announced a November tribute concert to Franklin at Madison Square Garden. Bill and Hillary Clinton tweeted well wishes; Beyonce and Jay-Z dedicated their concert in Detroit on Monday night to Franklin as she was released from a hospital and taken home in hospice care.
Read more here.
A couple of my favourite Aretha stories.
I Gotta Get Paid
Aretha was from a generation where performers were often ripped off by unscrupulous promoters. Like Chuck Berry who wouldn’t go onstage unless his fee was delivered in cash in a brown paper back to his dressing room in advance, Aretha insisted on cash up front. Stacks of 100-dollar bills would be provided to her dressing room, which she would stuff in her purse. That purse would then follow her onstage where she could keep an eye on it.
Flipping “Respect” Around
“Repect,” Aretha’s greatest song (released on April 29, 1967) is a cover. Written by Otis Redding for a group called Speedo Slim and The Singing Demons, the song was not only slower but was also written from the perspective of a man who, after a long day at work, was demanding respect from his woman. While it never worked out for Speedo Slim, the song eventually made it to Aretha who completely flipped the song around, turning it into an anthem of female empowerment.
Here’s the original Otis version.
And now, the version we will remember forever.
Aretha’s Trip into the Alternative World
While Aretha will always be associated with soul and R&B, there was that time when she joined Annie Lennox and the Eurythmics for this alt-rock single in 1985.
Bowie was a Fan, Too
Bowie presented her with a Grammy in 1975.
David Bowie presents Aretha Franklin with a Grammy Award in 1975. pic.twitter.com/h98EjfJTsz
— Consequence of Sound (@consequence) August 16, 2018
Here are some Canadian reactions to Aretha’s passing. (Via Cameron)
Here’s me talking with Matt Gurney on Global News Radio AM 640 today.
Oh, and a biopic is already in the work. It will star Jennifer Hudson.