Legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin has been awarded America's highest civilian honour by US President George W Bush.

The multi-Grammy award-winning RESPECT hitmaker was given the Presidential Medal Of Freedom for achievement in the arts at a White House ceremony in Washington DC.

Boxer Muhammad Ali was among others also honoured at Wednesday's (09NOV05) event.

Bush said, "Generations of Americans have stood in wonder at the style and voice of Aretha Franklin."

The president also praised the 63-year-old's mother BARBARA, and her father, the REVEREND CL FRANKLIN, for supporting their daughter in her early years as an artist.

He added, "They raised their daughter to be a woman of achievement, deep character and a loving heart."

Franklin was just 14 when she recorded her first tracks as a gospel singer.