The former president and first lady had a special friendship with Franklin, who famously performed at Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration.
“America has no royalty. But we do have a chance to earn something more enduring,” the former president wrote on behalf of him and his wife, per a statement that was later posted on Instagram. “Born in Memphis and raised in Detroit, Aretha Franklin grew up performing gospel songs in her father’s congregation. For more than six decades since, every time she sang, we were all graced with a glimpse of the divine.”
Franklin, who battled pancreatic cancer for years, began her vocal career as a teenager. She sang gospel hymns in her father’s Detroit church. From these humble beginnings she scaled to the very heights of stardom, scoring her first national chart-topper in 1967 with her version of Otis Redding’s “Respect.”