ARETHA Franklin, the Queen of Soul, died yesterday at the age of 76. One of the most memorable voices of the modern entertainment era was finally stilled after a brave fight against pancreatic cancer.

Most often known as the Queen of Soul, Franklin turned her matchless voice to various styles of music and was acclaimed in all of them. A gospel singer originally, she became a feminist icon and a civil rights campaigner and was seen as the embodiment of a woman who took no nonsense from anyone as she progressed through an extraordinary career that, among other things, saw her have more than 100 singles in the American Billboard chart.

ARETHA Louise Franklin was born in Memphis on March 25, 1942. Her mother, Barbara Siggers Franklin, was a gospel singer and pianist, and her father the Rev. Clarence LaVaughn Franklin, always known as CL, was a Baptist preacher.

Her parents separated when Franklin was just 6 and she was raised from then on by her father with her dying from a heart attack four years later.

CL Franklin’s career took the family from Memphis to Buffalo and then to Detroit’s famed New Bethel Baptist Church in 1946 from where his dynamic sermons were broadcast on the radio so that he became known as “the man with the golden voice”.

His daughter joined the choir and was soon the soloist because of her amazing vocal range that she kept for life – she could sing in the highest and lowest ranges with ease.

She started singing professionally at 18 in 1960, but did not enjoy much success at first as she switched between jazz, pop, R&B and soul music, before her run of hits began with Respect, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, and Spanish Harlem.

By the end of the 1960s she was one of the biggest stars in American music, and went on to sell 75 million records worldwide.

Her career waned in the 1970s but was revived by a brilliant guest turn on the cult hit movie Blues Brothers in 1980.

She had major hits in the 1980s with Freeway of Love and Jimmy Lee and found a whole new generation of fans with her duet with George Michael I Knew You Were waiting for me. By the 1990s she was seen as one of the most respected singers in the world. In all she would win 18 Grammy awards but maintained her greatest honour was being asked by President Barack Obama to sing at his inauguration.

SIR Paul McCartney asked for fans to “give thanks to the beautiful life of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of our souls, who inspired us”.

He added: “She will be missed but the memory of her greatness as a musician and a fine human being will live with us forever.”

Barbra Streisand said: “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.”

Diana Ross said: “I’m sitting in prayer for the wonderful golden spirit Aretha Franklin.”

Her friend, Scotland’s own Annie Lennox, who memorably duetted with Franklin on Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves, said:

“As the One and Only ‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin was simply peerless. She has reigned supreme. And will always be held in the highest firmament of stars as the most exceptional vocalist, performer and recording artist the world has ever been privileged to witness.

“Superlatives are often used to describe astonishing artists, but in my view even superlatives seem insufficient. Everyone who loved Aretha will be saying little prayers of gratitude, appreciation and respect for the musical life force that enriched our lives. Her voice will soar on forever.”