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'Queen of Soul' Aretha Franklin has died aged 76.

‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin has died aged 76.

The legendary singer died at her home in Detroit from pancreatic cancer after a long struggle with health problems. In the preceding days, family and famous friends – including musician Stevie Wonder and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson – had been flocking to her home amid reports she was gravely ill and receiving hospice care.

Franklin, who was widely known as just Aretha, will be remembered as the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She had 20 number one singles, the most by any woman, and earned 18 Grammy awards, including one for lifetime achievement, over the span of her career.

Aretha Franklin performs at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on March 3, 1990. Image: Getty.

She performed at the inaugurations of two presidents - Bill Clinton and Barack Obama - and was the first African American woman to appear on the cover of Time Magazine.

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Known for her powerful voice that stretched over four octaves, Franklin released hits such as Respect, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and I Say a Little Prayer.

Franklin's family said the singer's death was "one of the darkest moments in our lives".

"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," their statement read.

Tributes have been pouring on social media ever since news of her death broke, around midnight AEST.

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Franklin was born in 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee. Her career began at an early age in gospel, a tradition she never completely abandoned, even as she moved into jazz and secular music.

She recorded her first gospel album at age 14 and was soon signed by the Motown label when it was still a small start up.

Her real breakthrough came in 1967 when her version of Otis Redding's Respect surged to the top of the R&B charts and stayed there for eight weeks.

Franklin announced her retirement in February 2017 and last performed at Elton John's AIDS Foundation Gala in November.

The soul legend's music quickly climbed the iTunes' charts following her death. Her 30 Greatest Hits album hit the No. 1 spot, replacing Nicki Minaj's new album, while Respect reached No. 2 on the songs' charts.

Funeral arrangements are expected to be announced in coming days.

-With AAP

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