On this day in history, August 16, American legends Aretha Franklin, Babe Ruth and Elvis Presley died4 min read
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It’s the day the legends died.
Three giants of American pop culture — queen of soul Aretha Franklin, sultan of swat Babe Ruth and king of rock ‘n’ roll Elvis Presley — each were summoned to the royal court of immortality on this day in history, August 16: Franklin in 2018, Ruth in 1948 and Presley in 1977.
Franklin and Presley were arguably the greatest female and male voices in modern music history.
Ruth remains perhaps the most celebrated athlete in American sports.
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Each stands as a larger-than-life figure long after their August 16 deaths.
Franklin (1942-2018) sold more than 75 million records worldwide and topped the list of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time” published by Rolling Stone magazine in 2008.
“You know a force from heaven,” diva Mary J. Blige raved in the Rolling Stone chronicle of top singers.
“You know something that God made. And Aretha is a gift from God.”
Franklin is best remembered for landmark hits “Respect,” “Chain of Fools” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”
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That trio of tunes alone are scripted in the catalog of greatest American music.
Together they demonstrated Franklin’s awesome vocal power and her ability to express a broad range of emotions that captured the female experience.
She died at age 76 after an eight-year battle with cancer.
The sudden death of Presley (1935-1977) at his Graceland Mansion in Memphis at age 42 sent shock waves through global pop culture that still reverberate today.
He placed an incredible 109 songs on the Billboard top 100 charts. He is recognized by Guinness World Records as the top-selling solo artist of all time, moving more than 1 billion units worldwide, including sales of 130 million in the U.S. alone.
Elvis also starred in 33 movies.
“Elvis is the greatest cultural force in the 20th century,” celebrated composer Leonard Bernstein said of Presley.
“He introduced the beat to everything and he changed everything.”
He placed no. 3 on the Rolling Stone list of greatest singers of all time.
Tops among his notable performances: breakout no. 1 hit “Heartbreak Hotel” in 1956, “Jailhouse Rock” in 1957 and “Suspicious Minds,” his last no. 1 song, which topped the charts in 1969.
Known the world over simply as Elvis, he also starred in 33 movies and is seen around the world as a global symbol of the United States of America.
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George Herman “Babe” Ruth (1895-1948) dominated baseball, wider American sports and the national headlines in a way no other athlete has before or since.
He lorded over baseball when it was the most popular sport in the nation and did it with rare and unapologetic bravado — a joyous, hard-living personality off the diamond who dominated on it.
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Ruth was the best pitcher in baseball in his early years. He helped lead the Boston Red Sox to World Series wins in 1915, 1916 and 1918 — before he was purchased by the New York Yankees in 1920 and became the preeminent slugger in the history of the sport.
Ruth topped the American League in slugging percentage 13 times, homes runs 12 times and bases on balls 11 times, while leading the Yankees to World Series wins in 1923, 1927, 1928 and 1932.
Babe Ruth shocked the sports world by hitting a record 54 home runs in 1920, his first season with the Yankees.
His numbers are even more staggering in the context of their era.
Ruth shocked the sports world by hitting a record 54 home runs in 1920, his first season with the Yankees. No other American League team totaled more than 50 home runs that year.
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“Ruthian” remains in the American lexicon today, connoting a sports achievement or set of stats so monumental they dwarf those around them and defy description.
Ruth was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 1946. He was just 53 when he died two years later.