Very sad news to report this morning:  ARETHA FRANKLIN’s family says she’s “gravely ill” and, quote, “asking for your prayers at this time.”  They didn’t give any more details.  CNN says she’s in hospice care.

Aretha is 76, and she had surgery for pancreatic cancer in December of 2010.  But she kept performing until her doctors advised her to stop.  Her last performance was at ELTON JOHN’s annual AIDS fundraiser last November.

ABDUL “DUKE” FAKIR of the FOUR TOPS kept in touch with Aretha, and he said he just spoke with her a week ago.  Despite her issues, she was still looking forward to the future.

He says, quote, “She talked about this great, big special she was going to have in New York, with all her great friends performing.  It made me feel good as well . . . she was still hoping and wishing and dreaming as we do in this business.”

Some celebrities have been Tweeting their support.  Meanwhile, Beyoncé and Jay-Z just happened to be performing in Aretha’s hometown of Detroit last night, and they dedicated their show to her.

(VarietyAssociated Press)