Aretha Franklin speaks to the crowd in front of Reverend Al Sharpton during the BET Honors 2014 at Warner Theatre in Washington February 8, 2014. REUTERS/Jose Luis Magana (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Aretha Franklin is in "bad shape" but "hanging in there", according to her bass player Ralphe Armstrong, who described the Queen of Soul as a "fighter".

The 76-year-old music icon is believed to be "gravely" ill, and whilst her family are said to have gathered round to say their goodbyes, her bandmate Ralphe Armstrong - who was her bass player for 30 years - insists she's a "fighter", who is doing her best to push through.

He said: "She's in bad shape but she's a fighter. She doesn't talk about her illness, she's a strong person of faith. She gets a little depressed but she's a person of faith."

Ralphe visited the 'Respect' hitmaker on Friday to drop off some flowers for the Queen of Soul, and caught up with her family on Tuesday to get an update on the star's health.

He added to People magazine: "She was hanging in there, up talking and reading the paper a couple weeks ago. She's had a downturn just Saturday. Last week she was cussing people out.

"It's day by day with her. She had a good day yesterday. She's been doing a lot of sleeping. I'm not giving up on her yet. It's in God's hands."

The bassist's comments come after Aretha's longtime publicist Gwendolyn Quinn said the star and her family are thankful for the "love and support" they have received since news of her deteriorating health was first reported.

She said: "Aretha Franklin has been the Matriarch of the Franklin family since the passing of all of her siblings. The love she has for her family is above reproach and was evident in the warm smiles she was able to share with her nephew during his very brief visit two weeks ago.

"She is seriously ill and surrounded by family members who appreciate the outpouring of love and support they have received."

Aretha - whose three siblings all died of cancer - has battled ill health over the last few years and in 2011, denied she was suffering from pancreatic cancer, though she later admitted she'd had a tumour removed.

Last November, she was the subject of a death hoax online but insisted she was "doing well" when she spoke up to deny the reports.

She said: "I'm doing well generally, all test have come back good."