Music legend Aretha Franklin is “gravely ill” and surrounded by family and friends in Detroit, reports said on Monday, as prayers and well wishes poured in for the Grammy-winning Queen of Soul.
The 76-year-old Franklin—who influenced generations of pop divas with hits such as Respect (1967), Natural Woman (1968) and I Say a Little Prayer (1968) - was said to be at a Detroit hospital and has asked that details of her condition not be made public.
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Franklin cemented her place in American music history with her powerful, bell-clear voice that stretched over four octaves—in her decades-long career, her hits spanned the genres, from soul to R&B to gospel and pop.
She was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
Franklin’s serious condition was first disclosed on the Showbiz 411 website late Sunday by Roger Friedman, a reporter and family friend. He wrote that she was “gravely ill in Detroit. The family is asking for prayers and privacy.” Local television stations later confirmed Franklin’s illness.
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“Right now, Aretha is asking people here in the city of Detroit, where she calls home, to pray for her,” WDIV journalist Evrod Cassimy said on air, adding that Franklin had asked the network not to disclose any details.
Robert Smith, the current pastor at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit where Franklin’s father was the reverend, told AFP that Franklin’s representatives asked him Monday to “keep praying for her.”
“Everybody’s fearful,” Smith said. “I really don’t know what it would be like not to have her.” Artists from across the musical spectrum offered well wishes to the legendary singer who has lived in Detroit—the Motor City, the home of Motown music - most of her life.