Friends: Aretha Franklin has stuck to her roots

Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul is seriously ill and is surrounded by family and friends at a Detroit area hospital. As she's fighting, her friends say she's the same woman she's always been.

Franklin has unknown illness but family and sources say the illness is extremely serious

Franklin canceled planned concerts earlier this year after she was ordered by her doctor to stay off the road and rest up. She was originally scheduled to perform on her 76th birthday in March in Newark, New Jersey, and at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in April.

Last year, the icon announced her plans to retire, saying she would perform at "some select things." One of those select events was a gala for Elton John's 25th anniversary of his AIDS foundation in November in New York City, where Franklin closed the event with a collection of songs including "I Say a Little Prayer" and "Freeway."

Arnetta Woods grew up with Aretha and took part of her Monday to walk through the icon's childhood neighborhood on LaSalle Street. The family was well known because of her father Dr. CL Franklin who is the pastor of the new Bethel Baptist Church.

"She grew up over here, in the neighborhood. Nice woman nice family. This is my neighborhood. I grew up with her," Woods said. "I remember about her helping out the neighborhood, helping out the community. She would have a dinner at her church and she (was going to do) it this month. She's a wonderful person."

Woods and others in the neighborhood say Aretha has always truly stuck to her roots.

"I saw her last month at the concert. And she looked well, she looked good," Woods said.

Though being from Detroit and growing up just two blocks from Motown, she never signed with Motown Records.

She had signed with Atlantic Records and, according to Contours member Joe Billingslea, there was personal reason she didn't pursue Motown.

"Her father, Reverend Franklin didn't want her to record for Barry and Motown Records. I don't know (why). She said the saem thing - that her father didn't want her to record for Motown," Billingslea said.

He says Aretha Franklin's favorite Contours song was, "First I look at the purse."   But what if Aretha Franklin have signed with Motown?

"Had she been with Motown, Motown would've been way way bigger than what it was, she would've been the queen, she really would've been the queen," he said.

Every August, she feeds thousands of people at New Bethel Baptist Church, the church where she grew up. It's unsure if that will still happen this month.

Beginning in 2010, Aretha began experiencing health problems. She was in and out of the hospital. Although never disclosing her illness, it appears her health began to improve. In 2015 Aretha sang for the pope, gave an acclaimed performance at the Kennedy Center Honors and one year after that performed the national anthem at the annual Lions Thanksgiving Day game.

Aretha was born in Memphis, Tenn. March 25, 1942. Her family made Detroit their home just a few short years later. She grew up singing in her dad's house of worship, New Bethel Baptist Church on Linwood.

As a teenager, Aretha's father helped her launch a gospel career. But at 18 -- Aretha had a new vision. She signed on with Columbia Records and, in a few years, she would have her first Top Forty hit on American Radio.

Aretha was a rising star in the R&B world but to reach the next level of stardom, she knew she had to shake things up. In 1967 she signed with Atlantic Records -- and the rest would become music history.

"Respect" shot up to the top of the charts and not only became Aretha's signature song, it also became an anthem for civil rights and feminism. Her chart dominance with singles like "Natural Woman," "Baby I Love You," "Chain of Fools" and "I Say a Little Prayer" earned her the title Queen of Soul.

She received our nation's greatest honor. In 2005, she was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She would return to the nation's capitol in 2009 with a show-stopping rendition of "My Country Tis of Thee" for the inauguration of president Obama.