'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 hard time".
Funeral arrangements will reportedly be made in the coming days. FOX 2 Detroit News Anchor Huel Perkins is a close friend, and says Aretha was particularly challenged health wise over the previous year but that her spirits were always high.
That same year she was tapped to sing at the memorial service of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. where she performed a stirring rendition of "Precious Lord, Take My Hand".
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Fellow American singer, Patti LaBelle, said the "world has experienced a tremendous loss". "She did not want people to know and she didn't make it public".
Aretha was previously diagnosed with cancer in 2010, later confirming she had had the tumour removed.
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Her 1967 song Respect demanded common decency be shown to women, and paved the way for celebrity feminism - some 50 years before it manifested with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements of today.
Known for hits such as "Respect" and "Chain of Fools", the icon influenced artists for decades, making hits for long after she got a foothold in the music industry in the 1950s.
In addition to receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the NAACP Hall of Fame and the Apollo Theater Legends Hall of Fame. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.
In recent years she was doted for showing up when called upon, either at ceremonies celebrating the past, or at Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration where she famously wore a metric ton of fabric on her head. She began singing in his church, and she soon began touring and recording, releasing her debut album Songs Of Faith when she was 14.
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Mariah Carey tweeted: "Praying for the Queen of Soul", and Missy Elliott added: "My prayers are with Aretha Franklin & her family during this hard time".