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Aretha Franklin’s family are believed to have gathered “to say their goodbyes” as her health has taken a turn for the worse.

The soul singer, 76, has suffered a series of health issues over the years.

She was forced to deny she had pancreatic cancer in 2011, although did admit to having a tumour removed.

The Natural Woman and Respect hit-maker has also spoken openly about struggles with alcoholism, obesity and a heavy smoking habit.

News of her decline comes nine months after her last ever performance at the Elton John AIDS Foundation party in New York last November.

Her family are said to be asking fans for “prayers and privacy”, according to Showbiz411.

Last November she was the victim of an online death hoax after a tweet from a fake account went viral.

Responding to false claims of her demise, she told Us Weekly: “I’m doing well generally, all test have come back good.

“I’ve lost a lot of weight due to side effects of medicine, it affects your weight … Thanxxxx for your concern.”

It followed Aretha’s decision to cancel a string of live dates on health grounds along with her admission that she was planning to retire.

Reflecting on her achievements which include selling more than 75 million records and winning 18 Grammy awards over a career spanning five decades, she said: ”I feel very, very enriched and satisfied with respect to where my career came from, and where it is now.

Adding to a US radio station last February: “I’ll be pretty much satisfied, but I’m not going to go anywhere and just sit down and do nothing. That wouldn’t be good either.” 

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