Born in Memphis but raised in Detroit, Franklin began singing in church as a youngster - her father was a Baptist minister - and during her lifetime crossed multiple music lines.
It is possibly why Barack Obama labelled her music as embodying the connection between African-American culture and the experiences felt by many throughout U.S. history. She had battled through several health issues throughout the years, including pancreatic cancer in 2011.
It was after a move to Atlantic in 1966 she achieved wider success, with her first single with the new label, I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You), reaching number one on the R&B chart and the top ten in the United States pop chart. She performed "America (My Country 'Tis of Thee)" at former President Barack Obama's inauguration.
At one of Franklin's last public performances, in June 2017, she closed out a free concert in her hometown of Detroit with the message: "God bless you, God keep you, keep me in your prayers".
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There, Aretha Franklin began singing solos at age 10, soon after her mother, an accomplished piano player and vocalist, died. Eventually, Aretha left Columbia to sign with Atlantic, where she really came into her own as an artist.
But her childhood was not a happy one. Her hits over the following three years included "Chain of Fools", "Natural Woman" and "Think". Amid rumours of infidelity, her parents separated in 1948 and her mother moved to Buffalo with a son from a previous relationship. Even in her 70s, she was still performing. Franklin has 44 Grammy nominations and 18 wins. Franklin died in Detroit, which is where she spent most of her childhood and adult life.
Personally, the star struggled with her weight throughout most of her life and had been a longtime smoker. The soul music songstress made her mark as a music icon after winning a total of 18 Grammy Awards throughout her carer, and being chosen as the first female musician to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
Franklin's brother Cecil, who became her manager after White, died of cancer in 1989, as did her sister Carolyn in 1988 - one of two sisters who regularly featured on her records. Her first single "I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)" led to other successful tunes, including "Respect", "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man", and "Dr. Feelgood".
Franklin appeared on the cover of TIME in 1968, with a story that commended the "fierce, gritty conviction" of her voice.