Even skipping a couple generations, the Queen of Soul's 1967 pop hit, "Natural Woman" is a classic. Ariana Grande's Aretha Franklin tribute on The Tonight Show was reportedly last-minute, but Grande delivered the song with the house band, The Roots, and apparently received a standing ovation from the audience.
Grande appears to have idolized Franklin the way that much of the public did — in fact she covered "Natural Woman" way back in 2012 when she was still a Disney Channel actress on Victorious. The young singer posted a photo of her and Franklin on Instagram Thursday morning, captioned only with empty heart emojis, after Franklin's death was first announced.
Franklin and Grande began traveling in the same circles after Grande's musical career began to take off. Both were invited to join the lineup of Michelle Obama's "Women of Soul" concert in 2014, which also included Patti LaBelle, Melissa Etheridge and Janelle Monae. Grande joined several of the women for a rendition of "Proud Mary," while Franklin finished the concert with the soul traditional, "Amazing Grace."
In a 2015 interview with SiriusXM, Franklin even hinted at a possible collaboration with Grande. "I think Ariana and I are gonna duet. You like that? I think we have a hot duo going," she teased.
Unfortunately, as far as we know, these two pop icons never got that chance. Franklin died at the age of 76 on Thursday morning. According to CNN, she passed from pancreatic cancer, surrounded by family in her home in Detroit, Michigan.
"Aretha helped define the American experience," former President Barack Obama said in a statement. "In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade—our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace." Obama added photos of Franklin at White House events, including one of him fist-bumping the Queen of Soul.
Social media was awash with tributes to the deceased star on Thursday, and several notable contemporaries of Franklin voiced their own condolences. Paul McCartney posted a photo of Franklin taken by his late wife, Linda McCartney, in 1968, and wrote, "Let’s all take a moment to give thanks for the beautiful life of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of our souls, who inspired us all for many many years. She will be missed but the memory of her greatness as a musician and a fine human being will live with us forever. Love Paul."
In a long Instagram post, Elton John called Franklin's death a "blow for everybody who loves real music." Willie Nelson weighed in to recognize Franklin for her talent as well as her social contributions, tweeting, "Whether it was Gospel, Blues, Jazz, R&B, Pop,or Civil Rights, Aretha Franklin was the greatest gift and the voice of a generation."
Franklin was a legend of 60's and 70's soul during the Motown era, recording such hits as "Chain of Fools," "I Say A Little Prayer," "Bridge Over Troubled Water," and of course, "Respect." Though her incredible vocal power crowned her the "Queen of Soul", she also serves as an icon of empowerment and self-love for multiple generations.