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'R-E-S-P-E-C-T': Madonna pays tribute to Aretha Franklin at MTV Awards

Madonna shared a personal story to honor the Queen of Soul, who died last week at age 76.
/ Source: TODAY

Madonna honored the late Aretha Franklin at the MTV Video Music Awards on Monday by sharing a personal story from the early days of her career.

Madonna paid tribute to Aretha Franklin at the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Monday.Michael Loccisano / Getty Images

As she stood in front of a large photo of Franklin on the Radio City Music Hall stage, the "Holiday" singer, 60, told of being a young struggling artist who auditioned for a team of French producers with Franklin's 1967 hit "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman."

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Though her talents were ultimately rejected, the experience taught the future superstar to work harder on her music.

"(Aretha) led me to where I am today and I know she influenced so many people in this house tonight, in this room tonight," Madonna said. "I want to thank you, Aretha, for empowering all of us. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Long live the queen!"

"Long live the queen!" Madonna announced after revealing how much Franklin's music meant to her.Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Franklin, who helped shape the course of pop music with her late-1960s hits including "Respect," "Think," and "I Say A Little Prayer" died Aug. 16 of pancreatic cancer at age 76.

An 18-time Grammy winner, Franklin enjoyed popularity with the original 1980s MTV Generation thanks to her duets with some of the network's biggest stars, including George Michael, Whitney Houston and The Eurythmics.

Madonna was only the latest music world star to pay tribute to Franklin. When news of her death spread last week, Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Paul McCartney and others took to social media to honor the legendary Queen of Soul.

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