Aretha Franklin, described by many in the industry as the Queen of Soul, has died at the age of 76 following a spell of 'gravely ill' health.
The seasoned hitmaker was reportedly visited at her home by jazz legend Stevie Wonder, Reverend Jesse Jackson and close friends and family shortly before she passed away.
In a heartfelt statement issued after her passing, her family said, "It is with deep and profound sadness that we announce the passing of Aretha Louise Franklin, the Queen of Soul, in a statement issued by Franklin's family through her longtime publicist, Gwendolyn Quinn.
"Franklin, 76 years old, passed away on Thursday morning, August 16 at 9:50am at her home in Detroit, MI, surrounded by family and loved ones.
"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.
"We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world. Thank you for your compassion and prayers. 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."
While news of Franklin's illness had not made the news until People reported on her illness last night, her good friend and publicist, Gwendolyn Quinn, alluded to her death two days ago when he visited her at her home. "Aretha Franklin has been the Matriarch of the Franklin family since the passing of all of her siblings.
"She is seriously ill and surrounded by family members who appreciate the outpouring of love and support they have received".
The Associated Press has since reported the cause of her death as pancreatic cancer. Since her death was made public, stars of the entertainment world were quick to offer their condolences including Beyonce, who dedicated her Detroit concert, along with fellow performer and husband Jay-Z, to Franklin.
Mariah Carey, a singer whose vocals have often been compared to Franklin, tweeted: "Praying for the Queen of Soul" while Paul McCartney waxed lyrical of Franklin's cultural significance in a beautiful tribute on Twitter.
"Let’s all take a moment to give thanks for the beautiful life of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of our souls, who inspired us all for many many years. She will be missed but the memory of her greatness as a musician and a fine human being will live with us forever. Love Paul."
Franklin was the recipient of 18 Grammy Awards and has sold a staggering 75m records worldwide, making her one the bestselling musicians of all time.