QUEEN OF SOUL: Music Icon Aretha Franklin Dies

FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2005 file photo, President George W. Bush awards singer Aretha Franklin the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award, the highest civilian award, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. A person close to Franklin said on Monday that the 76-year-old singer is ill. Franklin canceled planned concerts earlier this year after she was ordered by her doctor to stay off the road and rest up. PICTURE: AP/Lawrence Jackson

DETROIT: Arguably the greatest singer of all time, Aretha Franklin, has died in Detroit. Tributes are flowing for the legendary artist.

Legendary singer Aretha Franklin has died at home in Detroit, aged 76. The music icon, who influenced generations of singers with unforgettable hits such as Respect (1967), Natural Woman (1968) and I Say a Little Prayer (1968), was surrounded by family and friends when she died at 9.50am on Thursday local time.

“It is with deep and profound sadness that we announce the passing of Aretha Louise Franklin, the Queen of Soul,” her family said in a statement issued by her publicist.

“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 death from advanced pancreatic cancer was followed by an outpouring of grief, with celebrities flocking to pay their respects to the gifted singer.

John Legend tweeted: “Salute to the Queen. The greatest vocalist I’ve ever known.”

Diana Ross said she was “sitting in prayer for the wonderful golden spirit Aretha Franklin.”

Smokey Robinson said in a statement: “This morning my longest friend in this world went home to be with our father. I will miss her so much but I know she’s at peace.”

Barbra Streisand shared a photo of herself performing with Franklin in 2012, writing: “It’s difficult to conceive of a world without her. Not only was she a uniquely brilliant singer, but her commitment to civil rights made an indelible impact on the world.”

Donald Trump yesterday opened a Cabinet meeting at the White House by expressing his “condolences to the family of a person I knew well”. He said Franklin “worked for me on numerous occasions,” and her “legacy will thrive and inspire” many generations.

It is unclear what he meant by claiming Franklin worked for him, although she performed at his Atlantic City casino in the 1980s and attended the grand opening of the Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York City in 1997.

“She was terrific — Aretha Franklin — on her passing,” said the President, who also tweeted about the singer. “She’s brought joy to millions of lives and her extraordinary legacy will thrive and inspire many generations to come. She was given a great gift from God — her voice, and she used to well. People loved Aretha. She was a special woman. So just want to pass on my warmest best wishes and sympathies to her family.”

Franklin — a Democrat — sang at the inaugurations of presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama and won 18 Grammy Awards, including one for lifetime achievement.

She 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.