LA — Soul legend Aretha Franklin has cancer and underwent surgery last week, media has reported, after she canceled engagements for the near future.
Fox 2 in Detroit cited a relative as saying the 68-year-old “Queen of Soul” is doing “OK,” but that the family is very concerned, and is asking for supporters to send their thoughts and prayers.
Representatives for Franklin, who rose from singing gospel to top charts in the 1960s and 1970s with hits like “Respect,” “Think” and “Chain of Fools,” did not immediately respond to requests for confirmation.
Fox 2 News quoted Franklin herself as saying she had “highly successful” surgery last week. “God is still in control. I had superb doctors and nurses whom were blessed by all the prayers of the city and the country,” she said.
The Detroit News meanwhile reported the singer had pancreatic cancer, which has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers, killing around 95 percent of patients within five years of diagnosis.
“Dirty Dancing” star Patrick Swayze died from the same form of cancer in September last year.
Franklin canceled a number of concerts in October citing “health reasons,” while in early November, doctors ordered her to cancel all engagements for the next six months, according to the Detroit News.
Arguably the most influential female singer in the United States in her lifetime, Franklin’s powerful, bell-clear voice is unmistakable, from a whisper to full-gospel-choir force that stretched over four octaves.
It has influenced the styles of two generations or more of divas, from Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston — whose mother was a backup singer for Franklin — to Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige and Amy Wineglass.
Franklin has continued belting out her old hits into her 60s, and issuing both old and new collections of recordings that still sold strongly 40 years after “Respect” earned her the Queen of Soul title in 1967.
She gave a stirring rendition of US anthem “Let Freedom Ring” at President Barack Obama’s inauguration in January 2009.