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ARETHA FRANKLIN [PHOTO | COURTESY]

Family gather around ‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin who is ‘gravely ill’

The ‘Queen of Soul’, Aretha Franklin, is critically ill, The Telegraph reports.

The news outlet reports that Franklin, 76, is reportedly surrounded by her family and close friends in Detroit. The family is asking for prayers and privacy.

A source who has known Aretha Franklin since the start of her career told The Telegraph that Franklin’s absence from the spotlight since the end of 2017 was “uncharacteristic”.

News about Franklin’s deteriorating health was broken by entertainment website Showbiz411.

Franklin’s friend, Roger Friedman, was quoted saying she is “gravely ill”.

“Something’s been happening with her health,” a source told The Telegraph.

“She’s missed several high profile public engagements in recent months, including the funeral of Dennis Edwards, who was one of her lovers. It’s uncharacteristic of her.”

Edwards, who was a member of The Temptations, inspired Aretha Franklin’s song Day Dreaming. In February, reports said she was unable to attend the memorial due to illness but sent her condolences to be read to the family.

Franklin’s most recent performance was last November, for the Elton John AIDS Foundation in New York, and she gave her last public performance in 2017 in Philadelphia.

Her performance in November came before rumours suggested that Aretha Franklin was on her deathbed.

The rumours were sparked in part by drastic weight loss.

The singer responded with an interview in Us Weekly, saying: “I’m doing well generally, all tests have come back good. I’ve lost a lot of weight due to side effects of medicine, it affects your weight.”

Aretha Franklin, best known for hits such as Respect and I Say a Little Prayer, cancelled concerts in 2010 while recovering from a surgery that removed an unspecified tumour and, Franklin said, would “add 15 to 20 years to her life”.

However, illness has affected her performing career over the past decade, with shows cancelled in 2013. Franklin said in August of that year that she had undergone a “miraculous” recovery, but continued to drop out of shows.

She has never divulged the details of her illness, but has spoken about a doctor “finding something in her body” that later disappeared.

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