CNN anchor Don Lemon remembered the life of the "Queen of Soul," Aretha Franklin, Thursday night, saying her music had been a "soundtrack to his life."
"This country has lost one of our greatest treasures. Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul," said Lemon, speaking in the opening moments of "CNN Tonight." It was "a title that she more than earned, with a voice that could raise any roof from the church all the way to the White House with a heart as big as her voice and a soul, a soul that helped to power the March for Freedom for people of color when she insisted like she always did on r-e-s-p-ec-t. Respect."
Later in the show, Lemon sang a few bars from one of his favorites "You Send Me," and shared his experiences getting to know Franklin over the years..
"This is very personal for me, as you can probably tell," he said, trying to hold back his tears. "[M]ore than once I've met a hero of mine but nothing compared to getting to know Aretha Franklin... In a lot of ways her music, her voice has been the soundtrack of my life."
Franklin, whose gospel-rooted singing and bluesy yet expansive delivery earned her the title "the Queen of Soul," died Thursday, a family statement said. She was 76.
Franklin died at 9:50 a.m. at her home in Detroit, surrounded by family and friends, according to a statement on behalf of Franklin's family from her longtime publicist Gwendolyn Quinn.
The "official cause of death was due to advanced pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin's oncologist, Dr. Philip Phillips of Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit," the family statement said.
Later in the show Thursday night, Lemon hosted a number of Franklin's lifelong friends who honored her memory and the impact of her life and music.
"Well done, my sister," said Gladys Knight, known as the "Empress of Soul." "Safe journey home, and I know you're going to be in the heavenly choir, and I hope to join you when I come if I make it."
"She inspired generations... to stand up, to speak up and to speak out," added civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis. "She gave us hope... her music gave us hope in a time of trouble."