NEW YORK (AP) — Aretha Franklin is still getting R-E-S-P-E-C-T after death: The Queen of Soul received the Pulitzer Prize Special Citation honor Monday, becoming the first individual woman to earn a special citation prize since the honor was first awarded in 1930.
The Pulitzer board said the award was given to Franklin for “her indelible contribution to American music and culture for more than five decades.”
Franklin died on Aug. 16 at her home in Detroit from pancreatic cancer at age 76.
The superstar musician was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when she entered the prestigious organization in 1987.
The Pulitzer board most recently awarded a special citation prize in 2010 to Hank Williams, the country music legend who died in 1953. From the arts world, other recipients include Duke Ellington, Bob Dylan, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, George Gershwin, Ray Bradbury, William Schuman, Milton Babbitt, Scott Joplin, Roger Sessions, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.
Before Monday, only 41 special citation prizes had been awarded since 1930, and winners have ranged from individual people to organizations and groups, including the New York Times, writers E.B. White, Alex Haley and Kenneth Roberts, and Columbia University and its Graduate School of Journalism. Franklin and the Capital Gazette newspaper received special citation honors this year.
“Aretha is blessed and highly favored even in death. She’s continued to receive multiple awards — she’s received almost every award imaginable and now to get the Pulitzer Prize, it’s just amazing,” Sabrina Owens, Franklin’s niece and the executor of her estate, said in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday. “Aretha continues to bless us with her music and just paving the way for women going forward. It’s thrilling. She would be so happy right now.”
When Owens heard the news that Franklin won a Pulitzer, she and the family were “surprised but in another way we were not because that’s just the kind of person Aretha was.”
“She was just very gifted and talented, and the world is still recognizing that,” she said.