Clad in an oversized mink and full-length gown, Aretha Franklin drew frenzied applause from those sitting in Washington's Kennedy Centre as she strolled out on stage and took her familiar place at the piano.

One of the night's honorees, Carole King — a music legend in her own right — could barely contain herself at seeing the Queen of Soul, jumping up and down in her seat and clutching her chest in excitemen

Carole King, who co-wrote You Make Me Feel (Like A Natural Woman), was overcome with emotion as she heard the song's opening strains. Photo / YouTube
Carole King, who co-wrote You Make Me Feel (Like A Natural Woman), was overcome with emotion as she heard the song's opening strains. Photo / YouTube

It was 2015, and after a career spanning nearly 60 years, Franklin was still at the top of her game.

With her powerhouse voice, the singer belted out the much-loved hit You Make Me Feel (Like A Natural Woman), and within just a few bars, actually reduced then-US president Barack Obama to tears.

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Explaining his surprising reaction later, Obama said: "American history wells up when Aretha sings … Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R&B, rock 'n' roll — the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope."

A video of the emotional moment quickly went viral on social media, highlighting the impact of the woman who changed the music landscape forever and provided the shoulders on which the likes of Beyonce, Adele, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey would later stand.

The clip has again resurfaced in the wake of Franklin's death at the age of 76 from pancreatic cancer.

Franklin had the crowd on their feet by the end of the song. Photo / YouTube
Franklin had the crowd on their feet by the end of the song. Photo / YouTube

The music icon, who influenced generations of singers with unforgettable hits such as Respect (1967), Natural Woman (1968) and I Say A Little Prayer (1968), was surrounded by family and friends in her Detroit home when she died at 9.50am on Thursday local time.

Following news of Franklin's death, Barack and Michelle Obama quickly joined the chorus of high-profile voices paying tribute to the singer.

"Through her compositions and unmatched musicianship, Aretha helped define the American experience," their joint statement read.

The music icon was surrounded by family and friends when she died at 9.50am on Thursday local time.

"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.

"She helped us feel more connected to each other, more hopeful, more human. And sometimes she helped us just forget about everything else and dance."

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