Former US President Barack Obama has joined music stars including Carole King, Paul McCartney, Diana Ross and Elton John in paying tribute to Aretha Franklin, who has died aged 76.

The soul icon's publicist confirmed that she had died at her home in Detroit, Michigan, on Thursday (August 16).

Barack Obama said Aretha Franklin "helped define the American experience". 

"In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade - our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect," he continued. "May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace."

Carole King, whose 1967 song (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman was immortalised by Franklin, wrote on Twitter: "What a life. What a legacy! So much love, respect and gratitude."

Paul McCartney tweeted: "Let's all take a moment to give thanks for the beautiful life of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of our souls, who inspired us all for many, many years. She will be missed, but the memory of her greatness as a musician and a fine human being will live with us forever."

Diana Ross said Franklin was a "wonderful golden spirit".

Elton John posted a lengthy tribute to Franklin on Instagram, writing: "The loss of Aretha Franklin is a blow for everybody who loves real music: Music from the heart, the soul and the Church. Her voice was unique, her piano playing underrated - she was one of my favourite pianists. I was fortunate enough to spend time with her and witness her last performance - a benefit for the Elton John Aids Foundation at St John The Divine Cathedral.

"She was obviously unwell, and I wasn't sure she could perform. But Aretha did and she raised the roof. She sang and played magnificently, and we all wept. We were witnessing the greatest soul artist of all time. I adored her and worshipped her talent. God bless her."

"My condolences to all her family and friends. We shared the same birthday - and that meant so much to me. The whole world will miss her but will always rejoice in her remarkable legacy. The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen."

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Tom Jones said Franklin: "lifted our hearts" with her "incomparable gifts".

Annie Lennox said Franklin was "simply peerless" and will always be remembered as "the most exceptional vocalist, performer and recording artist the world has ever been privileged to witness".

Singer John Legend wrote: "Salute to the Queen. The greatest vocalist I've ever known. #Aretha."

Liam Gallagher tweeted: "RIP Aretha Franklin what a voice."

American singer Akon tweeted: "Saying goodbye to a legend is never easy, your
music will live on forever #RIPAretha #queenofsoul."

Broadcaster Tony Blackburn tweeted: "So sorry to hear about the death of Aretha Franklin at the age of 76. I've been playing her records since the 60s and thought her music was wonderful. R.I.P."

Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James posted a link to Franklin's I Say A Little Prayer video, saying it is "one of my favourite songs...ever".

Take a look at a gallery of Aretha Franklin's Life in Pictures here.