Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin has died aged 76 after suffering from advanced pancreatic cancer.

Her representative, Gwendolyn Quinn, said she died on Thursday.

One of the world's best known soul singers, Mr Quinn, said she passed away at 9.50am local time at her home in Detroit, Michigan.

A family statement, describing Franklin as "the matriarch and rock of our family", said her death was "one of the darkest moments of our lives".

They thanked fans around the world for their "compassion and prayers", adding: "We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on".

Image: Franklin performing on stage in April 2017

The singer had cancelled recent shows due to ill health, and was later reported to be seriously ill.

Stars were quick to mourn the loss of the soul legend, with Elton John, Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney, Annie Lennox, Lionel Richie and Carole King among the artists paying their respects.

In a statement, former US president Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary called Franklin "one of America's greatest national treasures".

Describing her as "elegant, graceful, and utterly uncompromising in her artistry", the Clintons went on: "She will forever be the Queen of Soul and so much more to all who knew her personally and through her music. Our hearts go out to her family and her countless fans."

Reverend Jesse Jackson, who had visited Franklin at her home in recent days, tweeted a picture of the singer with the words: "A lot of music left the earth today. The Heavens rejoice. Rest in heavenly peace."

American singer and songwriter Stevie Wonder had also visited the singer at her home earlier this week.

Franklin in her Lady Soul heyday in 1967
Image: The singer in her Lady Soul heyday in 1967

Numerous other artists – including Beyonce, Jay-Z and Mariah Carey – sent their best wishes on hearing she was seriously unwell.

Franklin announced her partial retirement last year, saying she would release one last album and perform at "some select things".

Her most recent performance was in November last year at Sir Elton John's Aids Foundation's 25th anniversary gala in New York.

Rising to fame in the 1960s, perhaps her best known song is the cover of Otis Redding's classic hit Respect, reaching number one in the US and the top ten in the UK.

Aretha Franklin performs onstage in 2017 in New York
Image: Franklin's last public performance in New York in November

She received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1979, and was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Named the best singer of all time by Rolling Stone in 2013, she received 18 Grammy awards over the course of her career.

A surprise performance by Franklin in Washington in 2015 brought the then-president Barack Obama to tears.

Franklin was born on 25 March, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee, to a preacher father and pianist and vocalist mother.

Aretha Franklin with Barack Obama
Image: Franklin brought a tear to Obama's eye in 2015

Singing in a gospel choir as a child, she was an accomplished pianist and singer by her late teens, and a star by her mid-20s.

She recorded hundreds of tracks during her career, achieving dozens of hits and 20 number one hits on the R&B charts.

Franklin's best-known songs span many decades and include Respect, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, I Say A Little Prayer and Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves.

The musical legend passes away exactly 41 years to the day that King of Rock Elvis Presley died in his Memphis Graceland home.

More from Aretha Franklin

Franklin leaves behind her four sons – Clarence, Edward, Teddy and Kecalf, as well as grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins.

Funeral plans will be announced in the coming days.

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