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Arts and Entertainment

As Aretha Franklin ails in Detroit, fans across the world fret, pray

  • Author: Brian McCollum, Detroit Free Press
  • Updated: August 13
  • Published August 13

FILE - In this Feb. 11, 2011 file photo, Aretha Franklin smiles after the Detroit Pistons-Miami Heat NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich. Franklin is seriously ill, according to a person close to the singer. The person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not allowed to publicly talk about the topic, told The Associated Press on Monday, Aug. 13, 2018, that Franklin is seriously ill. No more details were provided. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

Aretha Franklin received a global outpouring of prayers and well-wishes Monday amid reports of failing health.

The iconic Detroit soul singer is seriously ill, multiple people close to Franklin and her family told the Free Press.

Franklin, 76, has been under care at her home in Detroit's Riverfront Towers, sources said.

"It's in God's hands," said one longtime friend, who requested anonymity because of the family's wish for privacy.

Word of Franklin's condition quickly lit up social media on Monday, with prayers offered by celebrities from across the entertainment spectrum, including singers such as Mariah Carey,

"Praying for the Queen of Soul," tweeted Carey, who appeared with the music legend in 1998 on the first "VH1 Divas" special.

Chance the Rapper posted a weeping emoji and linked to video of Franklin's epic performance at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors ceremony, where she saluted inductee Carole King by singing "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman."

By Monday morning, Franklin was among the top trending topics on Twitter.

Missy Elliott, Ciara, Paula Abdul and Carnie Wilson were among the numerous celebrities who joined the chorus of love expressed toward Franklin.

"Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda contributed to what he described as "the galaxy of prayers for Aretha today."

"Please pray for this amazing national treasure," posted Democratic activist, author and strategist Donna Brazile of Franklin, whose many career high points have included performing at President Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration.

Franklin was visibly frail during her performance at the Detroit Music Weekend festival in June 2017, an outdoor concert that was among the last handful of shows she has played. That evening, she was physically assisted on and off the stage by a contingent of friends that included the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Franklin sat for portions of her set.

The Queen of Soul was emotional during an interview with the Free Press that week, acknowledging the likelihood that Detroit Music Weekend would be her final hometown performance.

FILE- In this April 19, 2017 file photo, Aretha Franklin performs at the world premiere of ’Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives ’ at Radio City Music Hall, during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

She has not performed live since a November appearance at a benefit for the Elton John AIDS Foundation in New York, where she played a nine-song set.

The Queen of Soul's health has been an ongoing concern since 2010, when she canceled months' worth of scheduled activities amid undisclosed medical issues. She reemerged the following year and resumed performing, but subsequent years were marked by frequent show cancellations, often attributed to "doctor's orders."

A prayer vigial will be held at 5 a.m. Wednesday at New Bethel Baptist Church, the church once led by the singer's late, nationally renowned father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin. New Bethel is at 8430 Linwood in Detroit.

"We usually have 10 or 12 people," the Rev. Robert Smith Jr. said of New Bethel's morning prayer services. "I imagine we'll have a quite a few more for this."

The church received a grant from the Kellogg Foundation for a mural to be painted on the church's back wall, Smith said. Franklin had agreed to look over commissioned proposals in the spring.

"We were hoping she'd be at the church in March for a banquet," the pastor said, "but she didn't make it."

Franklin’s prolific, much-decorated career has spanned six decades, from a debut gospel album recorded in 1956 at New Bethel, through groundbreaking hits such as “Respect” and “Chain of Fools,” and on to latter-day work that continued to earn her Grammy Awards.

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