Although most subsequent records - like 2011's self-released Aretha: A Woman Falling Out of Love - slipped out quieter than mounting rumors of ill health, 2014's Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics reunited the legend with her public. But past year, she announced her semi-retirement, saying she was no longer going to perform regularly after the release of her newest album, "A Brand New Me".
She won a total of 18 Grammy Awards.
Carole King, who wrote (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman for Franklin, has paid her respects.
Her relatives said they had "lost the matriarch and rock" of their family in a statement issued via her publicist.
Franklin's ability to survive personal and professional storms added to her legacy and ensured that her title as royalty in R&B music would not pass on to anyone else. She remained active as a performer and a recording artists until the end of his life, with notable later achievements including charting a Top 40 single produced by Lauryn Hill, "A Rose Is Still a Rose", in 1998, winning a Grammy for her 2003 single "Wonderful", and performing at Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009.
A new generation of singers came to see Franklin as an elder stateswoman of music.
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More than just a hugely talented musician, Franklin became an icon of black pride in the late-'60s while winning the heart of the American mainstream without a trace of compromise. She subsequently canceled several appearances.
Franklin often demanded she be paid in cash before performing and took her status as musical royalty seriously.
She was a hit from an early age, leaving home at 18 with the support of her father to sign a recording deal with Columbia Records, a company she chose over RCA and hometown label Motown. "He threw his arms around me, and he was a wonderful man", said Aretha. She was married to Ted White from 1961 to 1969, and later to Glynn Turman from 1978 to 1984.
At one point she had plans to marry longtime companion Willie Wilkerson, announcing an engagement in 1988, but she eventually called it off in 2012. When Franklin was 10, her mother died, and a number of women, including the gospel singer Mahalia Jackson helped take care of Franklin and her siblings. She struggled to find a place for her soulful sound amid a time when disco ruled.
"I thought it was really amusing, but she did a handsome job with the pre-record".
Her last known performance was in November, for Elton John's AIDS Foundation Fall Gala.
In 1970, after their marriage broke down, Jet magazine reported that White was investigated for shooting Sam Cooke's brother, who attempted to protect Franklin when her husband turned up at her house.