CHICAGO — Tributes honoring Aretha Franklin are coming in from across the globe.
But in Chicago, WGN's Mike Lowe spoke exclusively with Semial Siggers, the last living uncle on the mother's side of Franklin's family. He recalled a woman who was magnificent on stage and low-key in life.
"Just knowing her from a baby until now," Siggers said, "she’s been the same."
He remembers the first time he heard Franklin's voice: "It was beautiful. ... She would sing in church. Her father was a preacher, and her mother was a pianist.”
Siggers married June Foster, who reflected on how being close to the Queen of Soul allowed the family to meet the rich and famous.
"We met many celebrities," Foster Siggers said. "We went the Grammy’s, went to the party at the Plaza, Luther Vandross — even met Donald Trump and Marla Maples.”
Siggers and his wife remembered Franklin's affinity for Chicago, the birthplace of gospel and a cradle of blues, jazz and soul music. Franklin is forever linked to the city through her show-stopping scene in the classic Chicago musical comedy "The Blues Brothers."
Foster Siggers said Franklin was "magnificent on screen" but "really low-key" in her personal life. Franklin was shy and wanted to be just like any other family member at home, her family said.
"For such a person who commanded kings and queens," Foster Siggers said, "we were at her house. She was sitting on the couch, in her lounging outfit and she ordered some food and she said, 'I will be so glad when they bring my chicken wings.'"
Franklin won virtually every award imaginable — including honorary degrees from Harvard, Princeton and Yale. But to her fans, her true title will always be the Queen of Soul.
"There will never be another Aretha," Foster Siggers said.