Fans gather in New York, Los Angeles to bid Aretha goodbye

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fans of Aretha Franklin came together at New York City’s landmark Apollo Theater and on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Thursday to pay their respects to the Queen of Soul, singing along to her hits and sharing memories of her remarkable career.

Franklin, known for such classic songs as “Respect” and “Chain of Fools,” died at home in Detroit on Thursday at the age of 76 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, her family said.

“My heart feels empty,” said Sheila Black, 51, outside the Apollo, not far from where she grew up in Harlem, as she recalled listening to Franklin’s “Another Night Without You” to get over heartbreak. “Her music will live forever. I’m just so sad that we had to lose her.”

Billy Mitchell, the Apollo’s historian, said the landmark theater would likely hold a tribute to one of its most beloved performers.

“We’re sad but we’re very grateful to have had someone like Aretha Franklin in our lifetime,” said Mitchell, known as “Mr. Apollo.”

Inducted to the Apollo’s Walk of Fame in 2010, Franklin performed there more than a dozen times, most recently in 2010. Her June 1971 “homecoming” show “drove fans to near-hysteria,” according to the theater.

“Aretha’s legacy should be excellence in music,” Mitchell said. “There’s a reason why she’s queen. You don’t get to get that title by being mediocre.”

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Lou Adams, 77, who had seen Franklin perform at the Apollo, said she was one of the greats. “It’s an experience you can’t explain; you have to feel,” he said of the concert.

Fans gathered at Franklin’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, leaving flowers and candles and sharing tributes to the entertainer.

“Every time one of her songs comes on, everyone sings along, everyone knows the lyrics and... her songs give you that power, like that confidence to step out into the world and to feel, as a woman and as a black woman, like, that you are beautiful and that you can do it,” said Chelsea Monroe, 29.

Crystal Carpenter, 56, said she grew up listening to Franklin in the late 60s and early 70s.

“And my mom bought this album back in ‘71 and now I have it,” Carpenter said, holding a copy of Franklin’s ‘Amazing Grace,’ which was recorded live in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles.

“I love her gospel, secular, everything,” Carpenter said. “She was the queen.”

Reporting by Tea Kvetenadze in New York and Omar Younis and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Dan Grebler