The Queen of Soul blessed the ESSENCE Festival stage with her iconic presence a total of three times over the past 25 years. She was among the handful of artists who performed for the very first ESSENCE Fest in 1995, before later returning to the Superdome mainstage in 2005 and then again for the final time in 2012.
As we continue to reflect on her unparalleled contributions to entertainment and celebrate her life, scroll through for a quick look back at photos from some of her memorable ESSENCE Fest moments.
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Taking to the stage in a dazzling beaded gown paired with the perfect chic short cut, the Queen of Soul brought the house down on the ESSENCE Fest mainstage in 2005.
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The 2005 lineup also featured songstresses like Alicia Keys, Fantasia and Destiny's Child, as well as then-budding Hip Hop superstar Kanye West, all of whom were undoubtedly influenced by Aretha's music and products of the many doors she opened for Black artists early on in her career.
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Aretha returned to the ESSENCE Festival in 2012, where her performance included a medley of her greatest hits, a tribute to Whitney Houston and a guest appearance by Gospel music favorite, Bishop Paul Morton.
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Aretha was also presented with the ESSENCE Festival Power Award, which she brought along with her while speaking with media in the press room just before taking the stage.
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The Queen of Soul pauses for a quick photo-op with fellow 2012 ESSENCE Fest performer, Trey Songz and Revered Al Sharpton. Following her passing, Rev. Sharpton remembered Aretha as "a beloved friend" who was dedicated to uplifting her community, while Trey said she "held a very special place" in his heart.
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Although 2012 marked the final year Aretha Franklin touched the ESSENCE Festival stage, we will continue to celebrate her music and her life for years to come. Rest In Peace to the undisputed Queen of Soul!
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