MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Aretha Franklin, the undisputed Queen of Soul, has passed away at the age of 76.
The cultural icon died Thursday morning at her home in Detroit from advance pancreatic cancer.
With more than 40 Top 40 hits and 18 Grammy awards, Aretha was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Raised by her father, a Baptist preacher, her first stage was the church. She grew to be one of the most beloved performers around the world.
Pete Rhodes, founder of the Black Music America Channel in Minneapolis, said Aretha gave a new meaning to the word “Respect.” Her biggest hit became an anthem of the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements in the 60s and 70s.
“That’s what it’s all about in our community, that’s what our community wants is respect, and when she did that song, it galvanized us to say, ‘Yes, that’s what we’re looking for, that’s all we need is a little respect,’” Rhodes said.
Rhodes remembers the first time he heard Aretha sing.
“I was about maybe 8, 9 years old, first hearing this song [“Chain of Fools”], going to the barber shop with my dad to get my hair cut,” Rhodes said. “Back in the day, it would be so nice, they had to play it twice.”
Aretha’s career spanned five decades, with hits that appealed to all kinds of audiences. As she racked up awards, she was also called on to help present them — like the time she brought the room to tears while singing at the Kennedy Center Honors.
The Queen of Soul received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.
“She could just touch your heart strings with not only the song and what it was all about, but how she conveyed it in her voice,” Rhodes said.
Here in Minnesota, Aretha performed at the state fair in 2014, and Northrup Auditorium in Minneapolis in the early 2000s.
“She was gorgeous, her voice was strong and magnetic, and I think she had the crowd on their feet the whole time she was there,” Rhodes said. “She’s helped to inspire us, to empower us, and her loss is like the loss of a family member.”