Posted in Behind the News

AP brings first word on death of legendary Aretha Franklin

, by Bryan Baldwin

Aretha Franklin always had a soft spot for The Associated Press. Over the years, she would seek out global Entertainment Editor Nekesa Mumbi Moody to chat — “We spoke when she was working on new music, or about an upcoming performance (like when she sang for the pope in 2015) or even her fitness plan and weight loss,” Moody recalled.

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, Wednesday, April 19, 2017, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Music editor Mesfin Fekadu, too, had interviewed Franklin, and witnessed her final public performance last November.

The death of the first woman selected for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – the one-of-a-kind star who made “Respect” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” cultural touchstones – would be enormous news. From the moment earlier in the week when reports circulated that Franklin was seriously ill, Fekadu made it a top priority to keep in touch with Franklin’s people. First, he got the first official confirmation from the family of her illness, and then he checked in at least daily for any updates.

The morning of Franklin’s death, family representative Gwendolyn Quinn called Fekadu and read a statement: “We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family.” For the first time, she revealed that Franklin had had pancreatic cancer.

The bulletin moved less than 10 minutes after the official time of death.

In the aftermath of the breaking news announcement, AP rolled out full coverage: obituaries by Hillel Italie; two pieces by Moody, including a remembrance of interviews she had had with the singer and an interview with a television producer who helped create some of her most magical performances; stories on her hometown of Detroither role in the civil rights movement and her position as a feminist heroine.