Aretha Franklin died on Thursday morning at her home in Detroit at the age of 76, The Associated Press reported. Franklin’s publicist, Gwendolyn Quinn, issued a statement on behalf of the iconic singer’s family, saying “Franklin’s official cause of death was due to advance pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin’s oncologist, Dr. Philip Phillips of Karmanos Cancer Institute.”
In the statement, Franklin’s family also said, “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.”
Finding the appropriate words to pay tribute to such a remarkable talent is no easy task. What’s the best way to honor an icon who is known as the Queen of Soul? We could focus on the 18 Grammy Awards and more than 75 million records sold. Or we could meditate on the more than a dozen honorary music degrees she’s been awarded by places like Princeton and Harvard, the outsize influence she’s had on generations of singers and songwriters, the fact that she was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Instead, we decided to focus just on Aretha — and her remarkable performances, which for decades brought people together — and most of all, her one-of-a-kind voice. The world just won’t sound the same without Aretha in it.
So, without further ado, if you’ve only got time to listen to eight Aretha Franklin performances, make it these essentials.
“(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman” at Kennedy Center Honors in 2015.
“Precious Lord” at MLK’s memorial service in 1968.
A crackling live performance of “Respect” from 1968.
“Think” from the classic 1980 comedy Blues Brothers.
A duet with Annie Lennox and the Eurythmics for the 1985 song “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves.”
A show-stopping performance of”Amazing Grace” at the White House in 2014.
“The Star Spangled Banner” performed at Harvard University’s 2014 commencement.
And one more version of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” performed with Carol King, Mariah Carey, Gloria Estefan, Celine Dion, and Shania Twain from the 1998 “Divas Live” concert in New York City. (Skip ahead to the 1:12:25 mark.)