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Exclusive: Beyonce, Ledisi Wish Aretha Franklin a Happy Birthday

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ESSENCE Music Festival headliner Aretha Franklin’s timeless voice has inspired countless generations of singers, including Beyoncé, who paid tribute to the Queen of Soul on her 70th birthday with a special message via ESSENCE.com.

"Happy 70th Birthday to the Queen, Ms. Aretha Franklin,” she says. “You are an inspiration.”

Speaking to Franklin’s legendary talent and penchant for always doing things her way through the years, Beyoncé adds, “Thank you for making the rules, breaking the rules and making it possible for me to do what I do.”

The singer has continually paid homage to the legends who inspired her, most recently calling the late Whitney Houston “the ultimate legend,” and Etta James one of "greatest vocalists of our time."

Singer Ledisi also chimed in to share her thoughts on Franklin. “She has enriched my life not only with her voice and music but by being a gracious and loving friend,” she tells ESSENCE.com. “I hope you have the best birthday ever.”

Franklin celebrated her birthday last night with a star-studded soirée at New York’s Helmsley Park Lane Hotel, where guests included music veteran Clive Davis, Rev. Al Sharpton and her longtime boyfriend (and one-time fiancé), Willie Wilkerson.

According to the Associated Press, Franklin joked 70 felt more like 40. "I was wondering, 'What is it going to be like to be 70?' I can tell you now it feels like 40," she said.
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