From when she was much younger Aretha Franklin had a very strong and amazing voice which could be spotted out at the New Bethel Baptist Church children’s choir back in Detroit, where her father C. L. Franklin, served as a minister.
Her father encouraged her music career by taking her around to sing and perform at different churches in what he called “gospel caravan” tours. With the help of her father, she signed her first record deal with J.V.B. Records and soon released her first album titled Songs of Faith, in 1956.
By the time she turned eighteen, she went secular, releasing several albums and songs that became major hits. Right now, Aretha Franklin is one of the best-selling musical artists of all time, with over 75 million of her records sold worldwide. She has several awards including 18 Grammies.
She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 (the first female performer to receive such honor), the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005, and the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2012. Aretha has been listed twice in Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time; and the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.
Read more about this legendary music icon of all times, her bio, career, children, husband, and all other facts.
Aretha Franklin Bio
“Auntie Ree” as she was fondly called by late music icon Whitney Houston, was born on the 25th day of March 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee. Her father and Clarence LaVaughn Franklin, who was originally from Shelby, Mississippi, was an itinerant preacher, and her mother, Barbara Franklin was an accomplished piano player and vocalist.
Aretha has several siblings – both biological and half-siblings. Her parents had three other children asides from her and other children outside their marriage. When Franklin was just two years old, the family relocated to Buffalo, New York, and again to Detroit, Michigan, when she was barely five years of age.
Following allegations of promiscuity on the part of C. L. Franklin, the couple divorced in 1948, and Aretha’s mom had to move back to Buffalo. Barbara, however, died in 1952, a few weeks to Aretha’s 10th birthday. Different women took turns in raising Franklin and her siblings including their grandmother Rachel.
After the death of her mother, Aretha Franklin began learning to play the piano by ear and singing at New Bethel Baptist Church Detroit, where her father pastored. At the age of fourteen, her dad became her manager taking her on tours to perform in various churches and church gatherings. Her father also got her signed to her first record deal with J.V.B. Records and by 1956, she released her first album titled Songs of Faith.
Two of her singles “Never Grow Old” and “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”, were released to gospel radio stations. Influenced by singer and songwriter Sam Cooke, after Aretha turned eighteen, she told her dad, who was also her manager at the time of her decision to go secular, her father agreed and helped her produce a two-song demo that made waves and soon brought Columbia Records to their door.
In 1960, she signed on with Columbia Records, as a five-percent artist, in September of the same year, she released her first single Today I Sing the Blues, which later reached the top ten of the Hot Rhythm & Blues Sellers chart. The following year, she released her first album – Aretha: With The Ray Bryant Combo, under the record. She released two more albums under the record before signing with Atlantic Records in 1966.
Her debut album with Atlantic titled I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, was a huge success as well as her two other singles “Baby I Love You” and “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman”. Her first two Grammies came in 1968, she got the chance to receive the SCLC Drum Beat Award for Musicians from her longtime friend Martin Luther King Jr, just two months before his death.
She left Atlantic Records in 1979 and signed a deal with Clive Davis’ Arista Records and that same year, she got the rare opportunity to perform at the Royal Albert Hall before the Queen of England – Queen Elizabeth.
In 2006, she performed at Super Bowl XL alongside Aaron Neville and Dr. John. She would later make international headlines that same year performing at President Barack Obama’s inaugural ceremony. In 2010, she received an honorary degree from Yale University.
As of 2014, Aretha Franklin was with RCA Records, a sister label to Columbia via Sony Music Entertainment, working with her old friend with Clive Davis. She is the first woman to have 100 songs on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
Aretha Franklin’s Husband, Children, Sister
Aretha Franklin has been married twice. Her first marriage was in 1961 to Ted White, the couple got divorced in 1969 after allegations of domestic violence. She remarried after almost a decade later to actor Glynn Turman. Franklin and Turman would later separate in 1982 after Franklin left California for Michigan, their divorce came two years later in 1984.
The music icon has been engaged twice to Willie Wilkerson. The most recent engagement was called off by Franklin in 2012.
She is a mother to four sons. Aretha had her first son Clarence in 1955 when she was only twelve years old and her second son Edward in 1957 at the age of fourteen. She had Clarence for a boy (Donald Burk) she knew from school, and Edward, she had for another boy named Edward Jordan. Both of them, Clarence and Edward took her family name. Her grandmother and her older sister Erma had to help her look after her two boys while she focused on her music career.
Franklin had her third son Ted White, Jr., in 1964, with ex-husband Ted White. Ted is professionally known as Teddy Richards and has provided guitar backing in his mom’s band during live concerts. Her fourth and Her youngest son, Kecalf Cunningham was born in 1970 to her road manager Ken Cunningham.
Her older sister Erma was also a professional singer. Her most recognized recording was the original version of “Piece of My Heart”, which got her nominated for a Grammy Award. Unfortunately, Erma died in 2002 after battling Throat cancer, she was 64.
Aretha’s younger sister, Carolyn, was also a singer/songwriter, she died of breast cancer in 1988.
Is Aretha Franklin Dead?
The Legendary singer has had several health challenges and struggled with several addictions, the septuagenarian. She had to cancel a series of concerts in 2017, due to health challenges and in 2018, the icon who has struggled with her weight for years had to also cancel series of other shows citing doctor’s orders.
She finally died on the 16th of August 2018, at the age of 76 after an 8-year battle with pancreatic cancer.
Other Facts You Should Know About Her
The music icon received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1979 and in 1987, she became the first female singer to ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
She received the Grammy Legend Award in 1991, followed by the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994.
The mother of four struggled with addictions chain-smoking and alcoholism. She finally gave up smoking in 1992.
Aretha Franklin is also a Kennedy Center Honoree and a recipient of the National Medal of Arts.
In 2005, she was decorated with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.