"I would call her the life blood": Aretha Franklin's pastor describes singer's vibrant spirit


Singer Aretha Franklin seen July 25, 2012.


Last Updated Aug 14, 2018 7:20 PM EDT

DETROIT — The many friends and fans of Aretha Franklin are sending her their best wishes Tuesday night. The legendary singer, who is 76, is gravely ill and in hospice care at her home in Detroit — Franklin's hometown.

The Queen of Soul reigned supreme at Beyoncé and Jay-Z's Detroit tour stop where the legendary couple dedicated their show to the legendary singer.

Countless celebrities, singers and political figures sent well wishes on Twitter. Patti LaBelle wrote: "My thoughts, my heart and my prayers are with Aretha Franklin, the greatest singer of all time."

Just last year, Franklin was honored with "Aretha Franklin Way" in the city where she'd find her soul, through the spirit of gospel at New Bethel Baptist Church where her father was pastor.

Robert Smith Jr. is the current pastor at New Bethel where photos of the Franklins still line the walls.

"When this place is packed, when she walks in the whole atmosphere changes," Smith said. "There's a new spirit that comes over the place. I would call her the life blood."

Smith says despite her worldwide fame, the singer never forgot her roots in the Motor City.

Franklin has sung for presidents and most notably she moved former President Barack Obama to tears.

"I think she delivered everybody to tears because every time she sits at a piano, I think her soul and the music connect. I know the voice is always good with the band behind and the group and all, but if you really want to feel her and see her come out, when she sits at that piano, she connects with the music so well, and it'll drive anybody to tears," he explained.

Smith last spoke to Franklin just two months ago.

"Very sharp, very sharp! Very to the point," Smith said. "And the last time I talked to her, she just said 'I'm not to be worried about, and the church is not to be worried about.'"

When asked how that made him feel he said: "Happy and sad at the same time, because I knew that meant she's recognizing that this long struggle might soon be over."

All day long, people have been coming to New Bethel Baptist Church inquiring about the condition of Miss Franklin, as she is known in the neighborhood where she grew up.

On Wednesday, there will be an early morning prayer service there for the Queen of Soul. Smith says he is expecting to see many more people than the dozen or so who typically show up.

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    Vladimir Duthiers is a CBS News correspondent based in New York at the CBS Broadcast Center.