Aretha Franklin dead at 76: Dark side of soul singer’s life

ARETHA Franklin has been an icon of black America for decades, and is widely known as one of the greatest singers in popular music.

Following her death from pancreatic cancer at age 76, tributes have poured in far and wide for the gifted singer.

READ MORE: World reacts to Aretha’s death

But Aretha’s life was far from sunshine and rainbows, and amid a wildly successful career spanning nearly six decades, the singer struggled with alcoholism, abusive marriages and her own massive insecurities.

A PROMISCUOUS FATHER

Aretha’s father, Clarence LaVaughn Franklin was a travelling preacher from Mississippi, while her mother, Barbara Siggers, was an accomplished singer and pianist.

As Aretha was growing up, Mr Franklin developed a form of celebrity status for his emotive preaching style, earning thousands of dollars to deliver sermons in various churches across the country.

He would later become the girl’s first music manager and help her forge the early stages of her path to musical fame.

But Aretha’s home life was not a stable one.

media_cameraAretha had a troubled upbringing with her mother dying before Aretha turned 10.

Rumours of infidelity always surrounded her father. Her parents split in 1948 when Aretha was 6, and her mother died before her tenth birthday. The job of looking after young Aretha fell to several women, including her grandmother Rachel and Mahalia Jackson, who was known as the “greatest gospel singer in the world”.

According to an unauthorised 2014 biography by David Ritz, Respect: The Life Of Aretha Franklin, Mr Franklin’s church services were a front for “sex circus”-style orgies.

“It was the point where Saturday night merged into Sunday morning and sin met salvation at the crossroads of African-American musical culture. High on the Holy Ghost, dancing in the aisles of New Bethel, the saints celebrated the love of Christ,” Ritz wrote. “High on wine and weed, the party people celebrated the love of the flesh.”

Singer Ray Charles once visited the church, and said he was “shocked” by how wild things got.

“When it came to pure sex, they were wilder than me — and that’s saying something. In those days I had a thing for orgies, but I had to be the only cat in the room with two or three chicks,” he said, according to Ritz.

“The gospel people didn’t think that way. The cats liked it with the cats and the chicks liked it with the chicks and no one minded mixing it up this way or that … I got a kick outta seeing how God’s people were going for it hard and heavy every which way. I was just surprised to see how loose they were.”

media_cameraAretha had two children to different fathers by the time she was 15.

This possibly had an impact on young Aretha’s life. She first fell pregnant at the age of just 12, giving birth to a boy, Clarence, in 1955. Her second child, Edward, was born in 1957, two months before Aretha’s 15th birthday.

“She had a tough childhood,” Ritz told People Magazine. “And early on in her career, she was hit by the tabloids.”

A FAILED MARRIAGE AND A DRINKING PROBLEM

At 18, she told her father she dreamt of becoming a pop star, and the singer began to be managed by Ted White, a man she married at the age of 19 and had another child with three years later.

White, according to many accounts, was not a good man. Ritz claimed the Detroit pimp had multiple women as lovers, singers and sex workers. He also claimed he was just using Aretha so he could reap the rewards of her success.

Many described White as controlling and abusive. While her massive hit Respect topped the charts in 1967, she was miserable in her marriage, according to the book. The pair began drinking heavily and eventually — after nine years of marriage — they divorced in 1970.

media_cameraAretha’s first marriage was abusive and difficult.

“Everyone knew that Ted White was a brutal man,” her sister-in-law Earline said. “But Aretha … she’s always clung to this fairytale storyline. She wanted the world to think she had a storybook marriage. She was having all those hits and making all that money. She was scared of rocking the boat, until one day the boat capsized and she nearly drowned.”

Aretha was reportedly not easy to work with. She wouldn’t turn up to studio recording dates, drank excessive amounts of booze — including on stage — and had issues with compulsive eating.

But according to Ritz, she didn’t want the public to know any of this.

“There were stories of her being a victim of domestic violence and she didn’t like that,” he said. “She didn’t like the image of her being a beaten woman. She loved the blues but she didn’t want to be seen as a tragic blues figure. She put out a picture of her having a happy home and happy children and everything was rosy and any stories to the contrary really got her mad.”

media_cameraAretha was known as a diva who was difficult to work with.

Aretha managed to kick her alcohol addiction the 1970s as part of a wider move to rebrand her image, but her addiction to food remained.

In 1978 she married actor Glynn Turman, but they divorced six years later.

A SERIES OF FAMILY COMPLICATIONS

The 1980s brought about a series of complications. In 1979, Aretha’s father was shot twice at his home in an attempted robbery, and remained in a coma for the next five years. He died in 1984.

Her sister Carolyn, and her brother Cecil, both died of cancer towards the end of the decade.

Aretha also suffered constant rumours that she was a diva and difficult to deal with. Based on interviews with her close friends and family, Ritz wrote that she was insecure, jealous and craved attention.

He claimed she would fabricate stories about mystery lovers and leak them to the press just to keep her name in print.

She reportedly loathed her rivals, like Barbra Streisand and Diana Ross, because she felt threatened by their success.

media_cameraAretha’s life was not easy — and her coping mechanism was to present an idealised version of herself to the world.

Aretha denied the claims in Ritz’s book, dismissing them as “lies and more lies”.

But Ritz stood by it. He said she had an extreme need for privacy, and relied on her optimism to cope with her struggles.

“She’s not atypical in her privacy, she’s just extreme,” he said. “I think her strategy for emotional survival was idealisation of her life in general.

“When you tend to idealise things, you don’t have to deal with a lot of the tough realities.”

Originally published as Dark side of Aretha Franklin’s life

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The Block judge Shaynna Blaze separates from husband

THE Block’s Shaynna Blaze has announced she’s separated from her husband.

The interior designer, 55, broke the news on Instagram that she’s no longer in a relationship with her husband of 18 years, Steve Vaughan.

“Sometimes in life, our paths change directions and now this is one of those times for me with Steve and I separating,” she wrote.

“I will not be making any further statements about this and whilst I appreciate your support I ask that you respect our right to privacy. Thank you, Shaynna.”

media_cameraShaynna Blaze with her children, Carly and Jesse, and her husband Steve Vaughan. Picture: Julie Kiriacoudis

The announcement comes just four months after Blaze opened up to New Idea about the secret to her happy marriage.

“The secret is every time we go out, it actually is date night,’ she told New Idea. “You treat each other as your date, rather than just expecting them to always be there.

“When you catch up, you just make sure that you’re present. You make sure that you’re there with each other and always touching base.”

Vaughan, who is a personal trainer, was Blaze’s second husband. She has two children, Jesse and Carly, from her first marriage.

Originally published as Block judge separates from husband of 18 years

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Aretha Franklin dead at 76: How Queen of Soul changed music forever

THERE are a few music legends who changed the game so much that they were the blueprint for everything that came after them: Elvis Presley. Ray Charles. The Beatles. The Rolling Stones. James Brown. Bob Dylan.

Aretha Franklin — who died on Thursday aged 76 from pancreatic cancer — is in that exclusive club.

media_cameraFlowers and pictures are placed on Aretha Franklin’s star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Credit: AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Indeed, it’s hard to think of any female R & B artist of the “real singer” kind who wasn’t influenced by the aptly titled Queen of Soul. Natalie Cole, Chaka Khan, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys and Beyoncé all owe a huge debt of R-E-S-P-E-C-T to the 18-time Grammy winner. So does Jennifer Hudson, the woman who was hand-picked by Franklin to play her in a biopic due to start filming next year.

And she wasn’t just the mother of all black female singers: Christina Aguilera, Adele and Ariana Grande are all part of the Aretha lineage. Adele’s Rolling in the Deep is Aretha all over, so much that Franklin herself covered it on 2014’s Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics.

With her church-bred voice, the (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman singer brought gospel-style melisma to the pop world. Those vocal runs you hear everybody trying to do on The Voice? That’s all Aretha.

media_cameraFranklin performing during the BET Honours in 2012. Credit: AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

But there are many more reasons why Franklin is regarded by many as the greatest singer who ever lived. (She was voted such by a Rolling Stone panel in 2010.) While everything about her voice is soul personified, she was not just an R & B singer. She could do gospel, jazz, pop, disco, even classical.

In one of her most stunning performances, she filled in for an ailing Luciano Pavarotti at the 1998 Grammys on the Puccini aria Nessun dorma (from the opera “Turandot”). That’s the kind of genre-defying diva she was.

And just two years ago, at a Thanksgiving Day football game between her hometown Detroit Lions and the Minnesota Vikings, she sat down at the piano and sang a five-minute version of The Star-Spangled Banner — just because she could pull off interpretative genius like that.

It’s a testament to her towering standing that a duet with Franklin was like getting blessed by the pope.

media_cameraThe singer performed in front of the actual pope in 2015. Credit: AP Photo/Matt Slocum

George Michael, Annie Lennox, Elton John, Luther Vandross and Frank Sinatra — no vocal slouches themselves — all measured their greatness against the greatness of Franklin. If you could hold your own with her, you could hold your own with anybody.

But as brilliant a singer as Franklin was, she was also a splendid songwriter, penning golden-era gems like Rock Steady, Day Dreaming, Call Me, Dr. Feelgood and Think. That last one, which she famously wailed in the 1980 movie The Blues Brothers, established Franklin as a feminist force along with her signature anthem, Respect.

media_cameraFranklin was considered an icon by others in the industry. Credit: AP Photo, File

In addition, she was an inspirational figure of black pride, with albums like 1972’s classic Young, Gifted and Black and her performances during the civil rights movement. She even sang at the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. Aretha used her gifts to make a difference as well as to make art.

It’s no wonder that she was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. With or without the title Queen of Soul, she was true music royalty — the likes of which we’ll never see again.

This story originally appeared in the NY Post and is republished here with permission.

Originally published as How Aretha Franklin changed music forever

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Aretha Franklin: Donald Trump claims the singer ‘worked’ for him

DONALD Trump has remembered the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, as someone he “knew well” and “who worked for me”.

“I want to begin today by expressing my condolences to the family of a person I knew well,” he began — so far, so good. But then came this: “She worked for me on numerous occasions.”

Wait, what?

You’re not alone if you have no idea what the president means by that. Media outlets have been scrambling to try and decode it.

RELATED: Aretha Franklin dead at 76

RELATED: Amazing stories behind Aretha’s songs

RELATED: What Aretha was really like in the studio

media_cameraDoes Donald Trump know who Aretha Fraklin is? Picture: AP

According to the Press of Atlantic City, the Respect singer performed at the now defunct Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in the 90s and according to theNew York Daily News, she attended a private event hosted by Mr Trump to celebrate the grand opening of the Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York in 1997.

However, it is not known if she actually performed at the event, as Vanity Fair cheekily pointed out: “It’s unclear what Trump is referring to exactly when he says that Franklin worked for him, or if he’s confusing having someone take a photo with him in 1997 as ‘work.’”

Photos from the event see Mr Trump with his arm slung over the shoulder of a grinning Franklin.

Either way, “working for me” seems like a bit of a stetch to say the least.

Many on social media believed the comments showed racist undertones and lashed out at Mr Trump for his tone deaf remarks.

And just when you think it can’t get any worse, Mr Trump continued: “She was terrific — Aretha Franklin — on her passing.”

The legendary vocalist performed her death well? We will leave that one to you to figure out

Originally published as Trump’s bizarre Aretha claim

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Meghan Markle: Duchess of Sussex shared her mantra for dealing with conflict in old blog post

MEGHAN Markle has had many public feuds with family and former friends since becoming a royal, but she has always handled herself with such dignity and grace.

It turns out the Duchess of Sussex has a long-held mantra when it comes to dealing with relationship breaksdowns and moving on.

On her now defunct lifestyle blog, The Tig, Meghan reportedly shared a motivational quote by Portuguese author Jose Micard Teixeira about letting go of toxic relationships and learning to put yourself first.

The post, which was published by Meghan in 2014 and recently unearthed by the Instagram account harry_meghan_updates, talks about not “wasting time with what displeases me or hurts me”.

“I have no patience for cynacism, excessive criticism and demand of any nature,” it reads.

“I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me, and to smile at those wgo do not smile at me.

“I no longer spend a single minute in those who lie or want to manipulate.”

media_cameraMeghan shared this motivational quote from Jose Micard Teixeira on her blog, The Tig. Picture: Instagram

The words ring particularly true now, with the Duchess of Sussex embroiled in a bitter feud with her father, Thomas Markle, and half-sister, Samantha Markle.

Meghan has reportedly not spoken to her father since just after her wedding to Prince Harry on May 19, when the prince allegedly told the 74-year-old off over those infamous staged paparazzi photos.

media_cameraMeghan has reportedly not spoken to her father since just after her wedding to Prince Harry on May 19. Picture: ITV

Since then, Mr Markle has gone on to give several unflattering media interviews, the most recent of which he claimed Meghan would be “better off if [I] was dead” and that Kensington Palace had discarded him, giving him no way to contact his daughter.

Meghan’s half-sister also hasn’t held back from commenting on her Meghan’s new life — despite previously admitting they hadn’t spoken in more than a decade.

media_cameraMeghan’s half-sister Samantha Markle hasn’t held back from criticising her younger sister despite the fact they haven’t spoken in more than a decade. Picture: ITV

Since her younger sister wed Prince Harry, Ms Markle has delivered a steady stream of angry tirades directed at Meghan and the royal family on Twitter and in media interviews.

She has called her “Cruella de Vil”, accused her of being fake, and said she would be “responsible” if their father died.

In the latest Twitter tirade, she called the royal family unchristian.

“The Queen’s church? You call yourself Christians (sic)? Christ would never treat our family as you have. Shame on you heartless things,” Ms Markle tweeted.

media_cameraMeghan has had to handle many public family fueds since becoming a royal. Picture: AP

And in a later tweet aimed squarely at her royal sister, she wrote: “Meg does owe our father love and respect … it is the decent thing to do. Oh but wait, you’re right, maybe cold, inhumane people don’t owe anyone anything, but isn’t that a form of sociopathy?”

Originally published as Meghan posted quote about those who ‘lie’

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“Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin Dead at 76

Aretha Franklin, best known as the “Queen of Soul,” died Thursday (Aug. 16) following a lengthy battle with advanced pancreatic cancer.

According to TMZ, Franklin passed away around 9:50 a.m. in her Detroit home where she had been under hospice care, her publicist Gwendolyn Quinn told the Associated Press.

The “Respect” singer had been in failing health for several months and was down to 86 pounds, TMZ reported. Sources close to the family say that they were informed over a week ago that Aretha could pass at any time.

Franklin’s family had asked for prayers on Sunday after it was first reported that she was “gravely ill” and near death.

“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 Detroit, Quinn told the AP in a statement from Franklin’s family.

“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.”

Aretha Franklin was 76 years old and is survived by her four sons and longtime partner Willie Wilkerson.

More from TMZ:

She was surrounded by friends and family when she passed. Her family released a statement, saying, “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.”

She had appeared incredibly frail in recent years, and rarely performed live. Her most recent appearance was last November for Elton John’s AIDS Foundation 25th Anniversary Benefit.

Aretha’s career is just incredible. Born in Memphis in 1942, her family eventually relocated to Detroit where she began singing in her father’s church. She was such a powerhouse gospel singer, she landed a Columbia record deal in the early ’60s.

Her string of chart-topping hits began with her Atlantic Records deal in 1967.

Aretha’s achievements in the late ’60s were remarkable for any artist, but especially so for a black woman in the midst of the Civil Rights movement. She held the record for the most entries on the Hot 100 list of any female artist for nearly 40 years, only to be dethroned in 2017 by Nicki Minaj.

She won 18 Grammys and was the first woman ever inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Aretha delivered a powerful rendition of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” — while wearing that unforgettable hat — at Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration.

Throughout her career, Aretha was known for delivering incredible one-off live performances, including at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors show where she sang ‘Natural Woman’ in honor of the song’s co-writer, Carole King.

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Aretha Franklin dead at 76: Queen of Soul dies in Detroit

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.”

media_camera‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin died aged 76 at home in Detroit.

Her death from advanced pancreatic cancer was followed by an outpouring of grief, with celebrities flocking to pay their respects to the unbeatable 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.”

Barbra Streisand shared a photo of herself performing with Franklin in 2012, adding: “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.”

Tributes flowed for the remarkable woman, with everyone from Apple CEO Tim Cook to Hillary Clinton expressing their admiration for Franklin and sadness at her death. “She was a great woman, with a wonderful gift from God, her voice,” tweeted Donald Trump. “She will be missed!”

Clive Davis, the music mogul who brought her to Arista Records and helped revive her career in the 1980s, said he was “devastated” by her death.

“She was truly one of a kind,” he said in a statement. “She was more than the Queen of Soul. She was a national treasure to be cherished by every generation throughout the world.

“Apart from our long professional relationship, Aretha was my friend. Her loss is deeply profound and my heart is full of sadness.”

media_cameraFranklin during her last public performance for the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Her family thanked friends and supporters from all over the world for their compassion and prayers. “We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received,” their statement read.

“We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on. As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.”

Funeral arrangements will be announced in the coming days.

Stars offered tributes and prayers for their idol earlier this week after news about her worsening condition emerged.

Beyoncé and Jay-Z paused their Detroit concert on Monday after the show’s opening song “Holy Grail” to dedicate the show to Franklin. “We love and thank you,” said Beyoncé.

“My prayers are with Aretha Franklin and her family during this difficult time,” tweeted rapper Missy Elliott. “We MUST CELEBRATE the Living Legends while they are here to see it. So many have given us decades of Timeless music.”

Boy George said: “This is sad news. Aretha Franklin, what a voice.”

Pop diva Mariah Carey, who was heavily influenced by Franklin, tweeted: “Praying for the Queen of Soul.”

Franklin 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.

She was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. In 2010, Rolling Stone magazine put her at the top of its list of the 100 greatest singers of all time, male or female.

The Hall of Fame issued a statement titled “Lady Soul”, which read: “The first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Aretha Franklin was an artist of passion, sophistication and command, whose recordings remain anthems that defined soul music. Long live the Queen.”

Franklin’s declining health was first disclosed on the Showbiz 411 website late Monday by Roger Friedman, a reporter and family friend. He wrote that she was “gravely ill in Detroit. The family is asking for prayers and privacy.”

Local media later confirmed Franklin’s illness.

Evrod Cassimy, a local television journalist for WDIV who also described himself as a friend of the singer, said he spoke with Franklin on Tuesday morning and she was “with close friends and family, resting.”

“I’ve been speaking with her family members,” Cassimy said during a newscast. “They have not only asked for prayers during this time, but they have also asked for their privacy.”

Franklin, who is widely known by only her first name in true diva style, rose from singing gospel in her father’s church to regularly topping rhythm and blues and pop charts in the 1960s and 1970s.

Beyond Respect, her powerful cover of the Otis Redding tune that became her calling card, Franklin had dozens of Top 40 singles. Other hits included Day Dreaming (1972), Jump to It (1982), Freeway of Love (1985) and A Rose Is Still A Rose (1998).

media_cameraAn early photo of Franklin.

A 1986 duet with George Michael, I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me), hit number one in several countries.

Her style influenced singers from Mariah Carey and the late Whitney Houston, whose mother was a backup singer for Franklin, to Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige and Amy Winehouse.

“You know a force from heaven. You know something that God made. And Aretha is a gift from God,” Rolling Stone said of Franklin in its list of greatest singers of all time.

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

Martin Luther King Jr. was a longtime friend, and she sang at the dedication of his memorial in 2011, as well as at the funeral for civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks.

media_cameraThe singer pumps up the crowd in Detroit for President Barack Obama.

In 2005, Franklin was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award for an American civilian, by then-president George W. Bush.

In 2010, she suffered serious health problems, but she continued to perform until late last year, singing last in November 2017 for the Elton John AIDS Foundation in New York. That same year, Detroit named a street after her.

Standing outside the city’s Motown Museum on Tuesday, musician Linda Laura-Culbreath told AFP that Franklin had influenced a generation of women who were empowered by her songs.

“We all were blessed with pure talent,” said the 53-year-old, who was visiting from Milwaukee. “She made sure that women in general knew that they were not under a man, that they were supposed to walk next to them.”

media_cameraFranklin performs at the world premiere of Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives at Radio City Music Hall, during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.

A LIFE IN MUSIC

Franklin was born March 25, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee.

Her father, the Reverend C.L. Franklin, moved his family to Buffalo, New York, then to Detroit, where they settled after the marriage of Aretha’s parents collapsed and her mother — and reputed sound-alike — Barbara returned to Buffalo.

Music was the family business and well-known performers from Sam Cooke to Lou Rawls were guests at the house. Rev. Franklin was among the most prominent Baptist ministers of his time and recorded dozens of albums of sermons and music. His daughter toured with him when she was a teenager and he introduced her to gospel stars he knew including Marion Williams and Clara Ward, who mentored Franklin and her sisters Carolyn and Erma.

Both sisters sang on her records, and Carolyn wrote Ain’t No Way and other songs for Franklin. In the living room, the shy young Aretha awed friends with her playing on the grand piano, which she began learning aged eight.

Franklin battled personal troubles dating back to childhood as well as the pressures of immense lifelong fame. She was married from 1961 to 1969 to her manager, Ted White, and their battles are widely believed to have inspired her performances on several songs, including (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone, Think and the heartbreaking ballad Ain’t No Way.

media_cameraFranklin, pictured performing in 2011 in Michigan, battled family issues and marriage problems. Picture: AP Photo/Detroit News, Ricardo Thomas

The mother of two sons by age 16 (she later had two more), she was often in turmoil as she struggled with her weight, family problems and financial predicaments. Her best known producer, Jerry Wexler, nicknamed her “Our Lady of Mysterious Sorrows.”

She married actor Glynn Turman in 1978 in Los Angeles but returned to her hometown of Detroit the following year after her father was shot by burglars and left semi-comatose until his death in 1984. She and Turman divorced that year.

Of Franklin’s dozens of hits, none was linked more firmly to her than the empowering anthem Respect with its inspiring “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” refrain.

The artist had decided she wanted to “embellish” the R&B song written by Otis Redding, whose version had been a modest hit in 1965.

In 1968, Franklin was pictured on the cover of Time magazine and she had more than 10 Top 20 hits in 1967 and 1968. At a time of rebellion and division, Franklin’s records were a musical union of the church and the secular, man and woman, black and white, North and South, East and West. Her career was revived in 1980 with a cameo appearance in the smash movie The Blues Brothers and her switch to Arista Records. Franklin collaborated with pop and soul artists including Luther Vandross, Elton John, Whitney Houston and George Michael, with whom she recorded No 1 single I Knew You Were Waiting (for Me).

media_cameraThe singer battled problems with family, her marriages and finances, but came through it all as one of the greatest singers of all time. Picture: AP Photo, File

She mastered every genre and covered all types of songs, including tracks by Stephen Sondheim, Bread and the Doobie Brothers. For Aretha, anything she performed was “soul”.

From her earliest recording sessions at Columbia, when she asked to sing Over the Rainbow, she defied category. The 1998 Grammys gave her a chance to demonstrate her range. Franklin performed Respect, before filling in for an ailing Luciano Pavarotti at a few minutes’ notice and drawing rave reviews for her rendition of Nessun Dorma, a stirring aria for tenors from Puccini’s Turandot.

“I’m sure many people were surprised, but I’m not there to prove anything,” Franklin told The Associated Press. “Not necessary.”

Fame never eclipsed her charitable works, or loyalty to Detroit. Franklin sang the national anthem at Super Bowl in her hometown in 2006, after complaining that Detroit’s rich musical legacy was being snubbed when the Rolling Stones were chosen as halftime performers.

“I didn’t think there was enough (Detroit representation) by any means,” she said. “And it was my feeling, ‘How dare you come to Detroit, a city of legends — musical legends, plural — and not ask one or two of them to participate?’ That’s not the way it should be.”

She only released a few albums over the past two decades, including A Rose is Still a Rose, which featured songs by Sean “Diddy” Combs, Lauryn Hill and other contemporary artists, and So Damn Happy, for which Franklin wrote the title ballad. Franklin’s autobiography, Aretha: From These Roots, came out in 1999, when she was in her 50s. But she always made it clear that her story would continue.

“Music is my thing, it’s who I am. I’m in it for the long run,” she told The Associated Press in 2008. “I’ll be around, singing, ‘What you want, baby I got it.’ Having fun all the way.”

In a 2004 interview with Florida newspaper the St Petersburg Times, Franklin was asked whether she sensed in the sixties that she was helping change popular music.

“Somewhat, certainly with Respect, that was a battle cry for freedom and many people of many ethnicities took pride in that word,” she said. “It was meaningful to all of us.”

Originally published as Aretha Franklin dead at 76

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Brad Pitt divorce: Angelina Jolie must give Pitt more visitation rights with six children

A JUDGE has reportedly ordered that Angelina Jolie must allow soon-to-be-ex-husband Brad Pitt more visitation with their six kids before the court will sign off on a permanent arrangement.

According entertainment publication the Blast, Jolie has had to agree to give Pitt four hours of custody every other day on school days, and 12 hours every other day on non-school days, the New York Post reports.

It’s the latest in an increasingly testy divorce, particurly when it comes to custody.

media_cameraBrad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in happier times. Picture: FilmMagic

Just last week in a filing to the Los Angeles Superior Court, the Maleficent actress accused Pitt of being an alleged “deadbeat dad,” having paid “no meaningful child support since separation” in 2016.

Pitt then fired back in legal papers that he had in fact loaned Jolie $8 million to buy her new home and paid out $1.3 million in bills for her and their kids.

But a new lawyer for the actress, Samantha Bley DeJean, shot back in a statement, saying: “A loan is not … child support, and to represent it as such is misleading and inaccurate.”

media_cameraThe pair met in 2005 on the set of Mr & Mrs Smith and married in 2014. Picture: Regency Enterprises

Their next court date is set for 21 August, according to the Blast.

Jolie and Pitt share six children: Maddox, 17, Pax, 14, Zahara, 13, Shiloh, 12, and 10-year-old twins Knox and Vivienne.

This article originally appeared in the New York Post and was republished with permission.

Originally published as Ange’s big blow in Pitt divorce

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Aretha Franklin dead at 76: Obituary, tributes for Natural Woman, Respect singer

SOUL singer Aretha Franklin has died aged 76.

Franklin had been “gravely ill” and passed away surrounded by family and friends in Detroit, as tributes poured in for the legendary Queen of Soul.

Grammy-winner Franklin influenced generations of pop divas with hits such as Respect (1967), Natural Woman (1968) and I Say a Little Prayer (1968).

Franklin was one of the most respected artists of all-time. She cemented her place in music history with her powerful voice that stretched over four octaves, and her hits spanned from soul to R&B to gospel and pop.

She was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

media_cameraQueen of Soul Aretha Franklin, pictured onstage at New York’s Radio City Music Hall in 2012. Picture: AFP
media_cameraIn April last year, Aretha Franklin performed at the premiere of Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives. Picture: AP

QUEEN OF SOUL

She sang gospel songs in her father’s church and her career rose to regularly topping rhythm and blues and pop charts in the 1960s and 1970s.

Beyond Respect, her powerful cover of Otis Redding’s tune that became her calling card, Franklin had a string of Top 40 singles, according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

They included Day Dreaming (1972), Jump to It (1982), Freeway of Love (1985), and A Rose Is Still A Rose (1998), and 1987’s I Knew You Were Waiting For Me, a duet with the late George Michael.

media_cameraDay dreaming! Aretha Franklin sang at the White House in 2013 for the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony. Picture: AFP

LEGENDARY CAREER

Franklin was the most lauded female R&B vocalist of her era.

Her style influenced pop divas from Mariah Carey and the late Whitney Houston, whose mother was a backup singer for Franklin, to Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige and Amy Winehouse.

She won 18 Grammy Awards during her career, including one for Lifetime Achievement in 1994.

In 2005, Franklin was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award for an American civilian, by then-president George W Bush.

She sang at the inaugurations of two presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

She was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

media_cameraLast November, she sang at Elton John’s AIDS Foundation gala at Cathedral of St. John in New York. This is reported to have been her last performance. Picture: Getty Images

FINAL PERFORMANCES

Franklin underwent surgery for an unspecified illness, reported to be pancreatic cancer, in December 2010 and was frequently ill, while keeping a regular concert schedule, in the years since.

She performed in November at the Elton John AIDS Foundation Gala in New York to a private audience.

media_cameraHer illness took its toll on the soul legend, seen here at the Elton John AIDS Foundation event last November. Picture: Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Her final public performance was in Philadelphia in August 2017. “It was a miraculous show as Aretha was already then fighting exhaustion and dehydration,” Showbiz 411 reporter Roger Friedman wrote, describing the Philadelphia concert.

That same year, Detroit named a street after her.

Franklin previously struggled with alcoholism, obesity and a heavy smoking habit.

media_cameraR-E-S-P-E-C-T! Aretha Franklin at the 1970 Grammy Awards. Picture: Tim Boxer/Getty Images
media_cameraNatural woman! Aretha Franklin in her hometown of Detroit during Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2011. Picture: MEGA TheMegaAgency.com

STAR TRIBUTES

Tributes have flooded in for Franklin from both inside the entertainment industry and beyond.

After news about Franklin’s worsening condition broke, stars including Mariah Carey – who was heavily influenced by Franklin – offered tributes and prayers for their idol.

“My prayers are with Aretha Franklin and her family during this difficult time,” tweeted rapper Missy Elliott.

“We MUST CELEBRATE the Living Legends while they are here to see it. So many have given us decades of Timeless music.”

Boy George said: “This is sad news. Aretha Franklin, what a voice.”

Pop diva Mariah Carey tweeted: “Praying for the Queen of Soul.”

media_cameraAretha Franklin in 1965. Picture: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
media_camera60s-style! The influential singer circa 1964. Picture: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

EARLY LIFE

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Franklin was only 12 when she gave birth to her first child. She had another at 14 and suffered an abusive marriage at the age of 19.

She was married twice — her first was to former manager Ted White (1961-1969). She then married American actor Glynn Turman (1978-1984).

Franklin had four sons: Clarence Franklin (1955), Edward Franklin (1957), Ted White Jr (1964) and Kecalf Cunningham (1970).

media_cameraFormer President Bill Clinton and Aretha Franklin, pictured together last November. Picture: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
media_cameraAretha Franklin at the 102nd White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in 2016. Picture: Getty Images

Having started singing at her father’s Baptist church, Aretha went on to sell millions of records as one of the most successful female artists of all-time.

Franklin signed with Columbia Records as a teenager. The label attempted to mould her into a pop singer.

She truly became “Aretha Franklin” after signing with Atlantic Records in 1966, releasing a succession of albums and singles of unparalleled power and emotional depth.

media_cameraRespect! Aretha Franklin in 2012 onstage in Atlanta. Picture: AFP

The legendary singer lived in Detroit, the home of Motown music, most of her life.

She cancelled planned concerts earlier this year after she was ordered by her doctor to stay off the road and rest up.

She was originally scheduled to perform on her 76th birthday in March in Newark, New Jersey, and at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in April.

media_cameraFAretha Franklin, as seen in 2011. Picture: AP
media_cameraShe influended generations of singers, including Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. Picture: AFP

Last year, the icon announced her plans to retire, saying she would perform at “some select things”.

A Hollywood movie about her rise to stardom is currently in production, starring Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson.

In January, Deadline reported that Franklin personally chose Hudson to play her in the MGM-produced bio-pic, with the working title Queen of Soul.

Music producer and Franklin’s long-time friend Clive Davis announced the movie at his annual pre-Grammys party when introducing Hudson, who performed a medley of Franklin’s hits Think, Rock Steady and Natural Woman.

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Beyoncé, JAY-Z & DJ Khaled Dedicate Detroit Concert to Aretha Franklin Amid Reports She’s “Gravely Ill”

On Monday night (Aug. 13), after reports emerged saying that Aretha Franklin was “gravely ill” and living her last days, Beyoncé and JAY-Z dedicated their “On The Run II Tour” concert in Franklin’s hometown of Detroit to the Queen of Soul.

After performing their first song, “Holy Grail,” at Ford Field, Beyoncé told the cheering crowd “This show tonight is dedicated to Aretha Franklin.” Queen Bey added, “We love you and thank you for changing all of our lives with beautiful music.”

DJ Khaled, who served as the opening act of Monday’s show, got the crowd excited when he played one of Franklin’s biggest hits, “Respect.” After playing the song, Khaled shouted: “Make some noise for Aretha Franklin” as the audience cheered.

The touching dedications came just hours after news broke that the iconic singer was dying of cancer.

CNN reported late Monday that Franklin is in hospice care, and Detroit news anchor Evrod Cassimy, who has been in touch with the R&B/Soul legend’s loved ones said she was being “surrounded by friends and family” and “asking for your prayers at this time.”

Stevie Wonder and Jesse Jackson are among the singer’s friends who have visited Franklin at her home in Detroit over the last few days, according to her publicist Gwendolyn Quinn. Mariah Carey tweeted that she was “praying for the Queen of Soul,” as did Ciara and Missy Elliott.

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