Aretha Franklin opens at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., June 13, 1969.
Aretha Franklin opens at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., June 13, 1969. Las Vegas News Bureau/Handout via Reuters

“Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin has died. The American music superstar died Thursday from pancreatic cancer at the age of 76.

“Franklin’s official cause of death was due to advance pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin’s oncologist, Dr Philip Phillips of Karmanos Cancer Institute,” the soul songstress’ publicist, Gwendolyn Quinn, told the Associated Press.

She had been suffering from ill health since 2010 when she was diagnosed with a tumour. She had successfully undergone a surgery to remove the tumour, though she had to cancel performances in the coming years due to undisclosed medical treatments.

Her last show was at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City during the 25th anniversary gala for Elton John’s eponymous AIDS Foundation in November last year.

Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin performs during the commemoration of the Elton John AIDS Foundation 25th year fall gala at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, in New York, U.S. November 7, 2017. Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

Earlier this week, she was reported to be seriously ill at her home. Her friends, including Stevie Wonder, had visited her upon hearing that she was under hospice care.

Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder
Singers Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder perform together during the finale of VH1's "Divas Live: The One and Only Aretha Franklin" a live televised concert at New York's Radio City Music Hall, April 10, 2001. Reuters/Mike Segar

“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,” her family said.

“We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world. Thank you for your compassion and prayers. We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on. As we grieve, we as that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.”

Aretha Franklin
FILE PHOTO - Aretha Franklin, winner of 17 Grammy awards, is interviewed as she arrives to be honored as the 2008 MusiCares Person of the Year at a special dinner and concert in Los Angeles February 8, 2008. Reuters/Danny Moloshok/File Photo

She was born Aretha Louis Franklin on March 25, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee. Her family moved to New York when she was just two years old and the settled in Detroit, Michigan, a couple of years later. She started singing gospel as a child at the church her minister father, CL Franklin, preached. Her professional career began when she was 18, recording for Columbia Records.

It wasn’t until she recorded “Respect” that her fame shot up. It became her signature song. Since then, she had had chart-topping songs that are still recognised today, including “Ain’t No Way,” “Natural Woman” and “I Say a Little Prayer.” Her gospel album, “Amazing Grace,” became one of her bestselling records as well.

She gave birth to her first child, Clarence, when she was just 13. Clarence, whose father was a boy from Franklin’s school, was named after her father. At the age of 14, she gave birth to her second child, Edward, who was named after his father. Her first two sons took her last name. Her third child, Ted White Jr, was born in 1964, and her fourth, Kecalf Cunningham, was born in 1970.

Franklin is survived by her four sons and grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are yet to be announced.