The representative for the influential singer, Gwendolyn Quinn, confirmed the news that she passed away at her home in Detroit.
Franklin, who was suffering from pancreatic cancer, was recently reported to be "gravely ill".
An influential cultural figure, often described as "the voice of black America", she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, and performed at Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.
The singer, who performed in a gospel choir in childhood and later graduated to master other genres such as pop and soul music, rose to worldwide prominence in the 1960s.
Several celebrities took to social media networks to pay tribute to the late queen of soul.
Elton John wrote a lengthy thread on Twitter, reminiscing working with Franklin, where he called her death "a blow for everybody who loves real music".
"Her voice was unique, her piano playing underrated - she was one of my favourite pianists... She sang and played magnificently, and we all wept. We were witnessing the greatest soul artist of all time.
Streisand shared a photo from 2012 when she performed with Franklin at a tribute celebration for their friend, Marvin Hamlisch.
Franklin was more than just a titanic vocalist who could effortlessly move through pop, jazz, R&B, gospel and disco. Known to her fans simply as “Aretha,” Franklin was an inordinately complex pop star — “Our Lady of Mysterious Sorrows,” wrote Wexler in his memoir.