The legendary queen of soul Aretha Franklin, winner of 18 Grammy Awards, lost her long battle with pancreatic cancer on Thursday in her Detroit home.
Condolences are pouring in from across the country and around the world for the greatest soul singer to ever live.
On March 25, 1942, Aretha Louise Franklin was born in a ramshackle cottage in Memphis, Tennessee to promiscuous Baptist preacher Clarence LaVaughn "C. L." Franklin and his wife Barbara Siggers.
Tired of his promiscuity, Siggers soon divorced Franklin and moved to Buffalo, NY with her son, Vaughn, leaving 6-year-old Aretha and her older sisters, Erma and Carolyn, with their father.
Thanks to her father's army of girlfriends and admirers, Aretha was influenced by gospel music before she took her first baby steps.
Aretha's mother died on March 7, 1952 before Aretha turned 10. Her grandmother Rachel, and gospel singer Mahalia Jackson took turns helping to raise the children while C. L. Franklin preached his fiery sermons at various churches around the country.
After Franklin relocated with his family to Detroit, Michigan, his New Bethel Baptist Church became a popular destination for gospel musicians such as Clara Ward, James Cleveland, Albertina Walker, and notables Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke.
Shortly after her mother's death, 10-year-old Aretha began singing in the choir at her father's church. 4 years later, C.L. Franklin began managing his 14-year-old child prodigy and took her out on the road with him to perform in various churches.
The road was no place for a 14-year-old girl with an insatiable appetite for food and attention from much older men.
In this excerpt from the book RESPECT, by David Ritz, Aretha is described as a promiscuous girl who bore 2 children by age 14:
"Two months before turning thirteen, she gave birth to a baby boy she named Clarence, after her dad. Rumors swirled that her own father was the father of her first child but it was Donald Burk, a guy she knew from school.
Aretha had a second child before she was fifteen by Edward Jordan, described by her brother as just a player. Both children would take the last name of Franklin and be raised in the Franklin home."
Aretha reportedly developed a serious crush on singer-songwriter Sam Cooke, who was 11 years her senior. She allegedly spent nights in his hotel room where he serenaded her with his hit song "You Send Me".
Franklin helped Aretha sign her first record deal with J.V.B. Records, where her first album, Songs of Faith, was released in 1956.
At age 18, Aretha's growing popularity sparked a minor bidding war between Columbia Records, RCA records and Tamla Records, a small Motor City label run by a songwriter named Berry Gordy.
Columbia won the bidding war, and Aretha's first single, "Today I Sing the Blues", released in 1960, reached the top ten of the Hot Rhythm & Blues Sellers chart.
After six years, Aretha grew tired of singing the blues at Columbia Records and opted not to renew her contract.
Eager to spread her wings and record R&B songs, she signed to Atlantic Records, where she achieved her first commercial success with "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)", which climbed to #1 on the R&B chart, while also peaking at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100.
In April 1967, Atlantic released Aretha's version of Otis Redding's "Respect", which shot to the top of the R&B and Hot 100 charts. "Respect" became Aretha's signature song and earned her two Grammy Awards in 1968.
"Respect" was quickly adopted by the feminist movement as a declaration of their independence from men. The classic song sits at #5 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".
On the strength of her timeless classics including "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman", "Respect", "Chain of Fools" and "Think", Rolling Stone magazine ranked Aretha #1 on its list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.
Roger Friedman was first to break the news that Aretha was "gravely ill" on his blog Showbiz411 on Saturday, Aug. 11.
Family members spoke out to various media outlets about Aretha's failing health.
"She has been under the weather for months. A lot of her family is around her, supporting her," Aretha's cousin Cendia Franklin tells RadarOnline.
“She has been ill for a long time,” a longtime friend tells PEOPLE magazine. “She did not want people to know and she didn't make it public."
PEOPLE confirmed Aretha was in hospice care in her Detroit home.
Aretha was visited at home in her final days by longtime friends Jesse Jackson, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder.
Aretha previously denied reports that she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2010.
“I am not going to even deal with that,” she told JET magazine.
In March 2017, Aretha announced she was retiring from touring. "I will be recording, but this will be my last year in concert. This is it,” she told a Detroit TV station.
Her last live performance was on Nov. 7, 2017 at the Elton John AIDS Foundation Gala concert in NYC.
Photos by Getty Images, WENN.com