Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, Dead at 76, Left a Piece of Her Legacy in Miami

The Queen of Soul recorded some of her biggest hits in Miami.
The Queen of Soul recorded some of her biggest hits in Miami. Joe Ortuzar / Flickr
Legendary soul singer and musician Aretha Franklin had a voice that seemed to belong to all of America. You'd be hard-pressed to name a voting-age citizen who doesn't know her name. Most Americans recognize her uniquely powerful voice from the opening strains of "Respect," "Chain of Fools," or any of her other hits, more than 100 of which reached the Billboard charts throughout her career.

Thursday morning, Franklin's publicist announced the Detroit singer had succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 76, inspiring fans across the world to break out their favorite tracks in her catalogue.

The Magic City can lay claim to at least a small piece of Franklin's legacy. According to the Miami Herald, the singer recorded hits such as "Don't Play That Song (You Lied)" and "Spirit in the Dark" at Criteria Studios, a North Miami recording studio now operating as the Hit Factory.

Criteria is perhaps Miami's most star-studded recording facility, having been used by the likes of Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and dozens of other household names. But Franklin, reports the Herald's Howard Cohen, helped make the place world-famous. In 1969, she laid down the album Spirit in the Dark, an 18-track recording met with rave reviews when it was released in the summer of 1970 — nearly 48 years to the day that Franklin passed away. Among the musicians who worked on the album with her in Miami were Duane Allman, of future Allman Brothers Band fame, as well as other talents who went on to work with Carly Simon, Miles Davis, and Bob Dylan.

News of Franklin's Miami connection has spread quickly in the wake of the singer's death, with high-profile locals sharing the news and their own grief and memories. Flo Rida posted, "I was blessed to meet Miss Aretha Franklin after her concert in Miami Beach. Her voice was as strong, powerful and soulful as ever. I will always remember the words of encouragement that she whispered to me. Rest In Peace to the Queen of Soul."

And Miami's own musical queen, Gloria Estefan, added her heartfelt tribute: "For as long as I can remember, Aretha Franklin has been the absolute zenith, the guiding light, the master for any girl that aspired to sing or even just appreciated someone at the top of their game. I was blessed to have sung with her on more than one occasion, and each time I felt that I was in the presence of musical royalty that would forever raise the bar and set the standard. Long live the Queen of Soul through her extraordinary & singular voice and her indelible music."

RIP, Queen Aretha.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misidentified Criteria Studios. We regret the error.
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Ciara LaVelle is New Times' former arts and culture editor. She earned her BS in journalism at Boston University and moved to Florida in 2004. She joined New Times' staff in 2011.
Contact: Ciara LaVelle