NEW YORK - APRIL 1968: Soul singer Aretha Franklin recording in the studios of Atlantic Records in April, 1968 in New York City, New York. (Photo by David Gahr/Getty Images)

Aretha Franklin: The Best Photos

A visual history of the late Queen of Soul.

A singer, a songwriter, a pianist, and the singular Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin died at home in Detroit on Thursday of pancreatic cancer. She was 76. One of the great treasures of American music, she sold 75 million records, won 18 Grammys, and, with her epic voice, made at least one sitting U.S. president cry. "Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R&B, rock and roll — the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope,” Barack Obama wrote to the New Yorker about why he teared up during Franklin’s 2015 Kennedy Center Honors performance. “American history wells up when Aretha sings." Here, some classic photos from an iconic life. (Above: Franklin in a New York recording studio in 1968.)

Portrait of American singer and musician Aretha Franklin, 1973. (Photo by Anthony Barboza/Getty Images) Anthony Barboza/Getty Images Franklin's musical abilities were apparent from the beginning. She was born in Memphis in 1942 and lived for most of her life in Detroit. Her father was famed preacher C.L. Franklin, and as a young girl Aretha sang and played piano in his touring Gospel Caravan. She recorded her first gospel songs when she was 15. In 1960, she signed her first contract with Columbia Records. (Above: Franklin in 1973.) UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 01: TOP OF THE POPS Photo of Aretha FRANKLIN (Photo by Ron Howard/Redferns) Ron Howard/Redferns On the "Top of the Pops" in 1970. In 1966, she'd move to Atlantic Records, where she'd have her breakthrough hit, a cover of Otis Redding's "Respect," and where she'd record some of the indelible hits of her career, including "Natural Woman," "Chain of Fools," and "Think." More than one of her songs have become anthems: "Respect," for example, was an upbeat civil-rights battle cry. NEW YORK - JANUARY 09: Soul singer Aretha Franklin sings in the Atlantic Records studio during 'The Weight' recording session on January 9, 1969 in New York City, New York. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images) Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images During recording sessions for "The Weight" in New York in 1969. CIRCA 1979: Soul singer Aretha Franklin attends an event with her husband actor Glynn Turman and her son Kecalf Franklin in circa 1979. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images) Michael Ochs Archives With second husband Glynn Turman and son Kecalf in 1979. Married and divorced twice, Franklin had four children. NEW YORK CITY - JUNE 28: Aretha Franklin attends Martin Luther King Jr. Benefit Concert on June 28, 1968 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage) Ron Galella/WireImage Performing at a Martin Luther King Jr. benefit concert on June 28, 1968, in New York. The Franklin family was active in the civil-rights movement — Dr. King had even stayed at their house when he was in Detroit. Aretha sang at his funeral in April 1968. NEW YORK - JUNE 28: Singer Aretha Franklin performs during a concert at Madison Square Garden on June 28, 1968 in New York City, New York. (Photo by Walter Iooss Jr./Getty Images) Walter Iooss Jr/Getty Images Performing at Madison Square Garden in 1968. THE ANDY WILLIAMS SHOW -- Aired 5/4/69 -- Pictured: Aretha Franklin (Photo by Fred A. Sabine/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images) NBC/NBC via Getty Images On "The Andy Williams Show" in 1969. American soul singer Aretha Franklin dancing for the cameras. (Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images) Express Newspapers/Getty Images Franklin in 1968. NEW YORK - JANUARY 09: Soul singer Aretha Franklin reviews a copy of her album 'Aretha Franklin - Soul '69' at Atlantic Records studios on January 9, 1969 in New York City, New York. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images) Michael Ochs Archives Looking at a copy of her "Soul '69" album in 1969. CIRCA 1980: Soul singer Aretha Franklin relaxes at home with Christmas presents by the fireplace in circa 1980. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images) Michael Ochs Archives In her home in 1980. NEW YORK - APRIL 24: Soul singer Aretha Franklin at the piano during a recording session on April 24, 1973 at the Atlantic Records studios in New York City, New York. (Photo by David Gahr/Getty Images) The Estate of David Gahr/Getty Images At the piano in 1973. American soul singer Aretha Franklin stands backstage wearing an gold embroidered gown and holding a Grammy Award, circa 1970. (Photo by Tim Boxer/Getty Images) Tim Boxer/Getty Images Holding one of her Grammys in 1970. UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: Aretha Franklin at the American Music Award (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images) Time & Life Pictures/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images At the American Music Awards in 1983. Franklin remained vital throughout the 1980s with hits like "Freeway of Love" and "Who's Zoomin' Who." Aretha Franklin rehearses in a recording studio with Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart of Eurythmics. (Photo by Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images) Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images She also sang duets with some of the biggest acts of the day, like George Michael on "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" and the Eurythmics (above, recording with Franklin in 1985) on "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves." DETROIT, MI - MAY 1989: (L-R) Producer and arranger Narrada Michael Walden, Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston pose for a portrait during the recording of the song 'It Isn't, It Wasn't, It Ain't Gonna Be Me in May 1989 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images) Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images With producer Narada Michael Walden and Whitney Houston in 1989. Franklin was a touchstone for the generations of singers who came after her. She knew Houston from a young age (although Franklin wasn't Houston's godmother, a popular misconception that she again corrected after Houston's death). Her overwhelming influence aside, Franklin could be protective of her legacy over the years: When Beyoncé introduced Tina Turner as "the queen" at the 2008 Grammys, Franklin — the one and only Queen — called it "a cheap shot." 'American singer, songwriter, and pianist, commonly referred to as ''The Queen of Soul'', Aretha Franklin promotes her album One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism. (Photo by © Norman Parkinson Achive/Iconic Images/Getty Images)' Norman Parkinson/Iconic Images/Sygma via Getty Images Promoting her 1987 album "One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism." That album was a return to her gospel roots, but 1987 also saw her honored for her secular work: She was the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 14: Singer Aretha Franklin and Talk Show Host Oprah Winfrey backstage at Radio City Music Hall on September 14, 1991. (Photo by Waring Abbott/Getty Images) Waring Abbott/Getty Images Laughing with Oprah Winfrey in 1991. American musician Aretha Franklin performs on stage at the Park West Auditorium, Chicago, Illinois, March 23, 1992. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images) Paul Natkin/Getty Images Performing in Chicago in 1992. Aretha Franklin preforms at the Lincoln Memorial for President William Jefferson Clinton's inaugural gala Washington, DC. USA, January 17, 1993 (Photo by Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images)'n Mark Reinstein/Getty Images Performing at the Lincoln Memorial as part of a pre-inauguration gala for Bill Clinton in 1993. DC, UNITED STATES: US President Bill Clinton (R) along with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton award singer Aretha Franklin (C) with the 1999 National Medal of Arts and Humanities Award 29 September, 1999, at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/Stephen JAFFE (Photo credit should read STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images) STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images Receiving the National Medal of Arts and Humanities from Clinton in 1999. Singer Aretha Franklin at the inauguration ceremony of President-elect Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States in Washington DC. (Photo by Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images) Brooks Kraft/Corbis via Getty Images Performing at the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009. Franklin's performance was, as usual, stunning, but it was her bow hat that made a splash in the social-media age. Made by a Detroit milliner, it was immediately requested by the Smithsonian Institute. NBC NEWS -- The Inauguration of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden -- Pictured: Singer Aretha Franklin performs on January 20, 2009 (Photo by Dan Renaldo/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images) NBC NewsWire/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images The 2009 inauguration. NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 19: Aretha Franklin performs during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival Opening Gala premiere of 'Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of our Lives' at Radio City Music Hall on April 19, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images) Taylor Hill/Getty Images Performing in New York in 2017. NEW YORK, NY - MAY 29: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) (L-R) Willie Wilkerson, Aretha Franklin, son Kecalf Cunningham and grandaughter Victorie Cunnigham pose backstage at the hit musical 'Chicago' on Broadway at The Ambassador Theater on May 29, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic) Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic With then-fiancé Willie Wilkerson, her son Kecalf Cunningham, and granddaughter Victorie Cunningham in 2015. First Lady Michelle Obama reaches out to embrace Aretha Franklin as President and CEO of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation Harry Johnson (L), US President Barack Obama , Vice President Joe Biden (3rd R), Biden's wife Jill and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (R) look on after Franklin performed at the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial October 16, 2011 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images) MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images At the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in 2011. NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 26: Singer Aretha Franklin is photographed for Self Assignment on March 26, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Matt Doyle/Contour by Getty Images) Matt Doyle/Contour by Getty Images A portrait from 2012. Franklin endured the rigors of touring for most of her life. She openly struggled with her weight and had a number of health scares over the last few years, including an unspecified one in 2013 that forced her to cancel a number of events. NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 07: Aretha Franklin performs onstage at the Elton John AIDS Foundation Commemorates Its 25th Year And Honors Founder Sir Elton John During New York Fall Gala at Cathedral of St. John the Divine on November 7, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images) Theo Wargo/Getty Images At the Elton John AIDS Foundation gala in New York on Nov. 7, 2017. In a 2016 Vogue interview, Franklin said, "I was asked what recording of mine I’d put in a time capsule, and it was 'Respect.' Because people want respect — even small children, even babies. As people, we deserve respect from one another."

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