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Remembering Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin

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The Warfield’s marquee laments the loss of legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin the day after her death. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Barbra Streisand, Clive Davis, Liam Gallagher, Ava DuVernay, Elton John, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Paul McCartney and Barack and Michelle Obama are just some of the many luminaries fondly remembering Aretha Franklin following her death Thursday morning.

In San Francisco, the message on the Warfield marquee honored the groundbreaking singer, whose last (rare and highly anticipated) Bay Area appearance was at Oakland’s Oracle Arena in 2015; her singular voice was in fine form.

The Queen of Soul, whose riveting voice made her a titan of American music, died at her home in Michigan after a battle with advanced pancreatic cancer; her nephew Tim Franklin said, “She went home in peace.”

In Bay Area radio, KBLX Dream Team Kimmie Tee, Tony Sco and Antoine Davis paid tribute to the superstar all day.

Franklin was one of the transcendent cultural figures of the 20th century. Raised on a musical diet of gospel, R&B, classical and jazz, she blossomed out of her father’s Detroit church to become the most distinguished female black artist of all time, breaking boundaries while placing nearly 100 hits on Billboard’s R&B chart.

Coronated the Queen of Soul in the 1960s, she leaves a legacy of classic songs that includes “Respect,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools,” “Baby I Love You,” “Angel,” “Think,” “Rock Steady,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Freeway of Love,” along with a bestselling gospel catalog.

Her death follows years of painstakingly concealed medical issues, which led to regular show cancellations and extended absences from the public eye. Visibly feeble but still summoning magic from her voice, Franklin played her final Detroit show in June 2017, an emotion-packed concert for thousands at an outdoor festival downtown.

She ended the performance with a then-cryptic appeal to the hometown crowd: “Please keep me in your prayers.”

The Queen of Soul sang for presidents and royalty, and befriended high-profile leaders such as the Revs. Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesse Jackson. But her life wasn’t always rosy: Her public success masked a private life of turbulence and loss, making for an intriguing character driven by conflicting forces: Franklin was sassy but naturally shy, confident but reckless.

An unauthorized biography by David Ritz exposed little known details about her two marriages and divorces, her upbringing, how she churned through support staff, hiring and firing lawyers, publicists and producers, and feuded with other female singers.

In the wake of her death, Radar Online reports that her longtime partner Willie Wilkerson, 70, with whom she lived for 30 years, will fight her sons Clarence, 63, Edward, 61, Ted White Jr., 54, and Kecalf Cunningham, 48, for a reported $80 million fortune.

— Staff, wire report

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