Music fans mourning the loss of Aretha Franklin can only agree sadly with her long-time friend and legendary record executive Clive Davis, who called the Queen of Soul irreplaceable on her birthday two years ago. “There’s very few, if any, who you know will be studied centuries from now,” he said. “Whatever Aretha Franklin does is history.” Guests at the party sang along with Stevie Wonder’s rendition of Happy Birthday, and Franklin said, “Every birthday is a gift. Every day is a gift.” — to PEOPLE, 2016.

Franklin, who was called by many the greatest singer of all time and who earned 44 Grammy nominations, died of pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type on Tuesday at the age of 76. She had battled the disease for years and refused to give in or give up. The Queen of Soul was private about her life, but she left us with quotes that reveal a great deal about the incomparable star.

“I’m doing very well,” she said at that birthday party. “I’m going to be around. I’ll be like Perry Coma [was], somewhere on a couch laying down with a microphone, still singing.” — to PEOPLE, 2016
She fought personal battles including motherhood at a very early age, alleged abuse at the hands of a husband and the loss of her beloved father.

“It’s the rough side of the mountain that’s the easiest to climb; the smooth side doesn’t have anything for you to hang on to.” — to Ebony, 1964

“Everybody wants respect. In their own way, 3-year-olds would like respect, and acknowledgment, in their terms.” — to Rolling Stone, 2014

She was aware of the impact that she made on her countless fans.

“I’m a people person. And I love performing. It’s the way it is and the way it’s going to be.”— to AARP Magazine, 2011

“That makes it all worthwhile, just to know I uplifted another person — I wouldn’t be doing anything else. In terms of helping people understand and know each other a little better, music is universal — universal and transporting.” — to Elle, 2016

She was funny, and she had big plans.

“Falling out of love is like losing weight. It’s a lot easier putting it on than taking it off.” — to The Independent, 2011

“I’m going to sail the Nile before it’s all over. I would like to see the pyramids and the Sphinx. I want to do Broadway — on my terms. And I have a standing invitation to have tea with the Queen of England.” — to PEOPLE, 2011

Jennifer Hudson, who will portray Franklin in the biopic based on her memoir Aretha: From These Roots, expressed the sorrow that many fans are feeling.

“I have no words, so I will let the Queen say it!” Hudson captioned a video of Franklin’s 1970 hit “Let It Be” playing in the car. “I will say while teaching me about your life, [you] taught me so much about life and schooled me in mine. I will never forget those teachings #riparethafranklin,” Hudson said on Instagram.