Why Diana Ross Said Aretha Franklin Had a ‘Golden Spirit’

Popular music changed when Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin stepped onto the music scene. The Detroit, Michigan natives both found musical success in the late 1950s. Each artist would earn multiple accolades throughout the following decades  and create record-breaking songs such as “Endless Love” and “Respect.” 

Although they started their careers around the same time, Ross and Franklin had a friendly relationship. When Franklin died in 2018, her peer celebrated her life via Twitter. 

Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin in a side-by-side black-and-white photo.
Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin | Harry Langdon/Getty Images, Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Diana Ross said she was ‘sitting in prayer’ when Aretha Franklin died 

In the 1960s, Ross and Franklin began performing R&B songs across the country. After getting her start as a gospel singer, Franklin transitioned to secular music in 1960. Once she moved to New York, the artist inked a deal with Columbia Records and released her first single, “Today I Sing the Blues.” 

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During Franklin’s venture into R&B music, Ross signed a deal with Motown as the lead singer of the Supremes. However, the group struggled to land a hit record until 1964. Following their song, “Where Did Our Love Go?” the group became global stars. In 1970, though, Ross left the Supremes for a solo career. 

When Ross found success as a solo artist, fans compared her to singers such as Franklin, Patti LaBelle, and Gladys Knight. Nonetheless, the “Endless Love” performer often shared her support for her peers, especially Franklin. After news broke that the Queen of Soul died of pancreatic cancer on Aug. 16, 2018, Ross tweeted about losing her longtime peer. 

“I’m sitting in prayer for the wonderful golden spirit Aretha Franklin,” she wrote. 

Was Diana Ross friends with Aretha Franklin?

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Ross and Franklin had several things in common throughout their lives. In addition to growing up one block away from each other, the artists also shared a mutual close friend, Smokey Robinson

In a YouTube clip, Franklin stated that she was a fan of Ross’ when she saw her perform with the Supremes. While the artists had mutual respect, they weren’t best friends. However, both music legends received honors at the 61st Grammy Awards in 2019. According to Reuters, singers Fantasia, Andra Day, and Yolanda Adams honored Franklin. For her tribute, Ross performed onstage and thanked her longtime fans for their support. 

Ross and many other celebrities attended Aretha’s funeral

Like Ross, multiple celebrities paid tribute to Franklin and her legacy via social media. Two weeks after her death, the “A Natural Woman” singer’s funeral took place at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit. Some of the attendees included Ross, Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, and former President Bill Clinton, per Page Six.

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Additionally, the event had several performances by Ariana Grande, Stevie Wonder, Fantasia, Faith Hill, Shirley Caesar, and Chaka Khan. Following the service, the Grammy winner’s family buried her in Woodlawn Cemetery alongside her father, C.L. Franklin, an acclaimed minister. 

Franklin’s long-awaited biopic, Respect, will premiere in theaters in Aug. 2021. The film stars Jennifer Hudson as the “Day Dreaming” singer.