Today (August 16), we lost one of the most remarkable voices in music, an icon whose vocals and lyrics stirred hearts and shaped minds.
Known as the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin’s soaring mezzo-soprano voice was instantly recognisable, and uniquely, exquisitely powerful.
However, in an extraordinary coincidence, Aretha died exactly 41 years to the day of another musical legend: the one and only Elvis Presley, also known as the King.
Both singers were born within one hundred mile radius of each other in America’s Deep South; Aretha in Memphis, Tennessee and Elvis in Tupelo, Mississippi.
They both influenced music in a way which will extend decades beyond their respective lifetimes; gaining new fans and bringing fresh joy with each passing generation.
Elvis was also gifted with a one in a million voice, with a deep, bluesy, emotionally-charged vocal range.
Interestingly, famous baseball player Babe Ruth – known to many fans as the ‘Sultan of Swat’ – died on 16 August 1948, bringing a further strange coincidence.
Rest easy #ARETHAFRANKLIN I imagine u in heaven performing & still making people souls move?? this was my aunt favorite record #RockSteady you will always be the Queen of Soul you been that before many of us were born! Thank you for giving us LEGENDARY TIMELESS music ??❤️ pic.twitter.com/bEueBCLGJ9
— Missy Elliott (@MissyElliott) August 16, 2018
My heart ? is broken with the loss of my Queen, my Mentor, my True Friend ?
I will always cherish our moments together and LOVE YOU FOREVER. My heartfelt condolences to your family #ArethaFranklin #SoulSister #QueenofSoul ? pic.twitter.com/NB2UD7OhSI
— Chaka Khan (@ChakaKhan) August 16, 2018
Aretha was aged 76 when she lost her battle with pancreatic cancer, while Elvis was just 42 when he died of a heart attack in 1977.
A moving statement from Aretha’s long-term publicist, Gwendolyn Quinn, read:
It is with deep and profound sadness that we announce the passing of Aretha Louise Franklin, the Queen of Soul.
Franklin, 76 years old, passed away on Thursday morning, August 16 at 9:50 a.m. at her home in Detroit, MI, surrounded by family and loved ones.
Franklin’s official cause of death was due to advanced pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin’s Oncologist, Dr. Philip Phillips of Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, MI.
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.
The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds.
I’m sitting in prayer for the wonderful golden spirit Aretha Franklin.
— Ms. Ross (@DianaRoss) August 16, 2018
There will never be another Aretha Franklin. We love you, Queen. ?? RIP
— Sheryl Crow (@SherylCrow) August 16, 2018
"It really is an honour if I can be inspirational to a younger singer or person. It means I’ve done my job." – Aretha Franklin
— Nathan Sykes (@NathanSykes) August 16, 2018
“Looking out on the morning rain
I used to feel so uninspired
And when I knew
I had to face another day
Lord, it made me feel so tired
Before the day I met you
Life was so unkind
But you’re the key to
My peace of mind.”
Her voice/swagger was peerless.
Thank you, #ArethaFranklin pic.twitter.com/5gp0OP10Jf
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) August 16, 2018
Touching tributes have poured in for Aretha, from globally renowned musicians to world leaders.
Former president, Barack Obama, tweeted:
Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade — our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace.
Singer Paul McCartney wrote:
Let’s all take a moment to give thanks for the beautiful life of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of our souls, who inspired us all for many many years.
She will be missed but the memory of her greatness as a musician and a fine human being will live with us forever. Love Paul
Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade—our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace. pic.twitter.com/bfASqKlLc5
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 16, 2018
Let’s all take a moment to give thanks for the beautiful life of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of our souls, who inspired us all for many many years. She will be missed but the memory of her greatness as a musician and a fine human being will live with us forever. Love Paul pic.twitter.com/jW4Gpwfdts
— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) August 16, 2018
‘Music does a lot of things for a lot of people. It’s transporting for sure… it’s uplifting, it’s encouraging, it’s strengthening.’
— Ben Barnes (@benbarnes) August 16, 2018
The greatest voice in American popular music has been stilled. Our beloved #ArethaFranklin has gone. For me, she was a musical lighthouse, guiding and inspiring with every note. I loved her so and love her still. Goodbye, Queen of Soul.
— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) August 16, 2018
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Aretha Franklin at this difficult time.
If you’ve experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677.
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.