|Aretha Franklin Quick Info|
|Height||5 ft 5 in|
|Date of Birth||March 25, 1942|
Aretha Franklin was an iconic singer, songwriter, and pianist whose name became synonymous with gospel music. Although she veered towards secular music in her later years, she became known as the undisputed Queen of Soul. Touted by many as one of the greatest singers of all time, she had managed to impress many luminaries with her soulful voice. Franklin always kept her private life out of the spotlight but her many romantic relationships made headlines as did her fluctuating weight. She died on August 16, 2018, aged 76, but has left behind a legacy of unparalleled music.
Aretha Louise Franklin
The Queen of Soul
Aretha was born on March 25, 1942.
Aretha passed away on August 16, 2018, at the age of 76, in Detroit, Michigan, after suffering from pancreatic cancer.
Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Aretha Franklin was a resident of Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Aretha attended the Northern High School but dropped out during her sophomore year.
Singer, Songwriter, Pianist
- Father – Clarence LaVaughn Franklin (American Baptist Minister and Civil Rights Activist) (Died in 1984)
- Mother – Barbara Siggers Franklin (Piano Player and Vocalist) (Passed away in 1952 from a heart attack)
- Siblings – Erma Franklin (Older Sister) (Singer) (Died from throat cancer in 2002), Carolyn Franklin (Younger Sister) (Singer and Songwriter) (Died in 1988 from breast cancer), Cecil Franklin (Older Brother) (Died from lung cancer in 1989)
- Others – Willie Walker (Paternal Grandfather), Rachel Walker (née Pittman) (Paternal Grandmother), Samuel Siggers (Maternal Grandfather), Clara Bell Lowe (Maternal Grandmother), Vaughn Franklin (Older Step-Brother) (Died in 2002), Carol Ellan Kelley (née Jennings) (Step-Sister)
Aretha was represented by the California-based ICM Partners.
Soul, R&B, Pop, Gospel, Jazz
J.V.B. Records (now Battle Records), Columbia Records, Atlantic, Arista Records, RCA Records
5 ft 5 in or 165 cm
79 kg or 174 lbs
Boyfriend / Spouse
Aretha Franklin had dated –
- Donald Burke – Donald was Aretha’s schoolmate. Their relationship resulted in Aretha having her first child, a son named Clarence Franklin (b. January 28, 1955), when she was only 12.
- Edward Jordan – Her another early age affair with Edward Jordan bestowed motherhood on Aretha for the second time. She gave birth to her second child, a son named Edward Franklin (b. January 22, 1957), at the age of 14.
- Doc Powell – Aretha had an encounter with American guitarist Doc Powell.
- Ted White (1961-1969) – Aretha first met Theodore ‘Ted’ White in 1954 at a party arranged at her house. They eventually got married in 1961 when she was only 19 years old and their marriage produced a son, her 3rd child, named Ted White Jr., in February 1964. Professionally known as Teddy Richards, he played backup guitar at his mother’s live concerts. But, the couple had a troublesome marriage involving domestic violence which led to their eventual separation in 1968 and their divorce was finalized in 1969.
- Ken Cunningham (1968-1971) – Aretha was in a relationship with her road manager Ken Cunningham in 1968 and had a son named Kecalf Cunningham (b. March 28, 1970). The couple dated for 3 years before parting ways in 1971.
- Eumir Deodato (1973) – Aretha dated Brazilian musician Eumir Deodato from April 1973 to September 1973.
- Glynn Turman (1977-1984) – Franklin and actor Glynn Turman got together in April 1977 and tied the knot a year later on April 11, 1978. Their wedding took place at her father’s church and Aretha became step-mother to Turman’s 3 children from his previous marriage. However, they separated in 1982, with Aretha leaving California for Michigan, and they ultimately got divorced in 1984. Glynn, however, visited her a few days before her death in 2018.
- Willie Wilkerson (1984-2012) – Willie Wilkerson and Aretha Franklin began dating in 1984. This was her longest relationship as they were together for 28 years till 2012. During the course of their relationship, they got engaged thrice, with their first engagement being announced as far back as in 1988. The couple got engaged for the last time in 2012, with news of their wedding to take place in Miami, but shortly after, they announced their break-up in January 2012.
Race / Ethnicity
She was of African-American descent.
- Powerful mezzo-soprano vocals
- High cheekbones
- Voluptuous figure
Aretha had endorsed –
- McDonald’s (1985)
- Amoco Gas Stations (1986)
- Prodigy net.com (1999)
- Pepsi-Cola (1999)
- Snickers (2010)
- Foundation for Better Living (Used her song Respect)
- American Express (2015)
- Alabama Tourism Department (2016)
- Time Magazine (2017)
- Apple Music (2017)
Best Known For
- Her musical prowess and her renditions of chart-topping singles like Respect, I Say a Little Prayer, and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman that cemented her place as the “Queen of Soul”
- Being one of the greatest singers of all time and having won 18 Grammy Awards throughout her lifetime. Her music had also sold more than 75 million records worldwide till 2018.
She released her debut album titled Aretha: With The Ray Bryant Combo in 1961 with Columbia Records.
She made her theatrical film debut as Mrs. Murphy in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers.
First TV Show
Aretha made her first TV show appearance in 1962 as a musical guest on The Jack Paar Tonight Show.
Aretha struggled with bodyweight issues throughout her life. In 1974, she lost 40 pounds with the help of a crash diet. But, she maintained her slim figure only until the end of the decade. Due to her increasing weight, she suffered from diabetes and other health issues later in her life. In December 2010, she underwent a surgery for an undisclosed ailment and lost 85 lbs in the following months. During this time, she exercised 3 to 4 times a week and her workout included walking on the treadmill for 30 minutes.
Regarding her diet, she used to gorge a lot on hamburgers while on the road which compounded her weight issues. So, she ditched junk food for whole foods and healthier salads. Her salads would be repleted with radishes, carrots, olives, red onions, tomatoes, ranch dressing, shredded cheese, and a little lemon.
Aretha Franklin Favorite Things
- Film As A Child – The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)
- Writers – Quincy Jones, Della Reese
- Musical Writers – Holland-Dozier-Holland, Michael Masser, L.A. & Babyface, Smokey Robinson
- Place – Washington D.C.
Source – IMDb, Vanity Fair, Washington Post
Aretha Franklin Facts
- She was named after 2 of her paternal aunts – Aretha and Louise.
- Aretha became the first woman to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
- She taught herself piano, without knowing how to even read music, after her mother passed away in 1952.
- Her father passed away in 1984, after being in a coma since being shot by burglars in 1979. Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke at his funeral.
- Aretha had refuted the claims that her mother abandoned her children after Aretha’s parents divorced in 1948. In fact, the kids spent their summers in Buffalo with their mother until her death.
- She developed an extreme fear of flying after witnessing an in-flight turbulence in 1982.
- Aretha had performed at the inauguration ceremony for 3 United States Presidents, namely, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.
- Although she was a high school dropout, Aretha had received honorary doctorates in music from the Berklee College of Music and Yale University.
- The state of Michigan had declared her voice as a ‘Natural Resource’.
- Aretha was a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
- She was ranked #9 in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Artist of All Time by Rolling Stone.
- She also topped the list of VH1’s Greatest Women of Rock n Roll in 1999.
- Aretha received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2005. Other recipients included Muhammad Ali, Carol Burnett, and Andy Griffith.
- One of Aretha’s celebrity fans was Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the band Queen.
- She was awarded the American National Medal of Arts by the National Endowment of the Arts in Washington, D.C., in 1999.
- For her immense contribution to British music and its music culture, Franklin was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005.
- Aretha was described as the voice of the civil rights movement, the voice of black America, and a symbol of black equality. Thus, she was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2012.
- A poll conducted by the Rolling Stone magazine in 2008 named her as the greatest singer of the rock era.
- On August 29, 1979, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording at 6920 Hollywood Boulevard in California.
- She wore a lavish hat while singing ‘God Bless America’ at Barack Obama’s Presidential inauguration in 2009. The hat, created by Detroit’s Mr. Song Millinery, became a huge sensation and was sold out shortly after by designer Luke Song.
- Aretha was a former chain smoker and struggled with alcoholism as well. She quit smoking for good in 1992 after realizing that it was messing with her voice. However, she gained weight as a result of it.
- Aretha was friends with Cissy Houston and was made the honorary aunt (not godmother as erroneously reported) of her daughter, singer Whitney Houston. Whitney often referred to her as ‘Auntie Ree’ and had known Franklin since she was 5 years old.
- She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2010 in a Detroit hospital. On August 13, 2018, reports surfaced that she was gravely ill and later it became known that she was under hospice care and surrounded by her loved ones. She died a few days later on August 16, 2018, at the age of 76 at her home in Detroit.
- There is an asteroid named after Aretha. NASA’s NEOWISE project discovered the asteroid 249516 on February 15, 2010. It was named ‘249516 Aretha’ after a proposal was made by the Principal Investigator of the project, Amy Mainzer. The asteroid circles between Mars and Jupiter every 5.63 years and is 4.306 kilometers in diameter.
- All through her life, Aretha was a supporter of civil rights and women’s rights. Her songs Respect and Natural Woman became known as the anthems for social change.
- Visit her official website @ arethafranklin.net.
- For more updates, you can follow the late singer’s Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook accounts.
Featured Image by AustinMini 1275 / Flickr / Public Domain