Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul, is ‘gravely ill’, say friends

Eighteen-time Grammy winner has battled ill health for several years

Queen of Soul: Aretha Franklin at her most recent performance, in November 2017. Photograph: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

Queen of Soul: Aretha Franklin at her most recent performance, in November 2017. Photograph: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

 

The singer Aretha Franklin is seriously ill, according to multiple sources. The music star known as the Queen of Soul was first reported to be “gravely ill” by the American film critic and entertainment reporter Roger Friedman, who said he is a close friend.

Friedman wrote on his entertainment website Showbiz 411 that Franklin was in Detroit with friends and family, who were “asking for prayers and privacy”.

Another anonymous source told the Associated Press that Franklin, who is 76, is “seriously ill”, although no further details were given.

A Detroit TV station, WDIV Local 4, also reported that Franklin’s family said she was ill. The channel’s news anchor Evrod Cassimy tweeted: “BREAKING NEWS: I am so saddened to report that the Queen of Soul and my good friend, Aretha Franklin is gravely ill. I spoke with her family members this morning. She is asking for your prayers at this time. I’ll have more details as I’m allowed to release.”

Franklin – and her distinctive, powerful voice – rose to fame in the 1960s after starting out as a gospel singer, going on to achieve enormous global success with memorable soul hits including Respect, Think and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. She has sold more than 75 million records worldwide and bagged many top industry awards, 18 of which are Grammys. She was also the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, in 1987.

Franklin revealed she was going to retire after releasing one more album in February last year. She told Cassimy at the time: “I must tell you, I am retiring this year. I will be recording, but this will be my last year in concert. This is it.”

Although keen to step away from the industry, Franklin, who has battled ill health for several years, said that she would not “just sit down and do nothing” and that she hoped to “do some select things” on occasion. “I’ll be pretty much satisfied, but I’m not going to go anywhere and just sit down and do nothing. That wouldn’t be good either.”

The singer was forced to cancel a handful of concerts earlier this year, including a stint at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in April, because of ill health. Franklin’s most recent performance was in November last year, at the Elton John Aids Foundation’s 25th anniversary gala in New York. – PA