Even when she was much younger, Aretha Franklin had a very strong and amazing voice, which could be heard in the children’s choir of the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, where her father C. L. Franklin served as pastor.
Her father promoted her music career by singing and performing in various churches on so-called “Gospel Caravan” tours. With her father’s help, she signed her first record deal with J.V.B. Records and released her first album, Songs of Faith, in 1956.
When she turned eighteen, she became secularized and released several albums and songs that became big hits. Currently, Aretha Franklin is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, with over 75 million records sold worldwide. She has received several awards, including 18 Grammys.
She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 (the first female performer to receive such an honor), the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005, and the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2012. Aretha has been featured twice in Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the 100 greatest female artists of all time and one of the 100 greatest female singers of all time.
Read more about this legendary musical icon of all time, her biography, career, children, husband, and all other facts.
Aretha Franklin Bio
“Aunt Ree”, as she was affectionately known by the late music icon Whitney Houston, was born in Memphis, Tennessee on March 25, 1942. Her father and Clarence LaVaughn Franklin, originally from Shelby, Mississippi, was an itinerant preacher, and her mother, Barbara Franklin, was an accomplished piano player and singer.
Aretha has several siblings – both biological and half-brothers and sisters. Her parents had three other children in addition to her, as well as other children outside her marriage. When Franklin was just two years old, the family moved to Buffalo, New York, and again to Detroit, Michigan, when she was barely five years old.
Following allegations of promiscuity by C. L. Franklin, the couple divorced in 1948, and Aretha’s mother had to move back to Buffalo. Barbara died, however, in 1952, a few weeks before Aretha’s tenth birthday. Birthday. Various women took turns raising Franklin and her siblings, including her grandmother, Rachel.
After the death of her mother, Aretha Franklin began learning piano by ear and singing at New Bethel Baptist Church Detroit, where her father was a pastor. At the age of fourteen, her father became her manager and took her on tours to perform at various churches and church meetings. Her father also got her first record deal with J.V.B. Records, and in 1956 she released her first album entitled Songs of Faith.
Two of her singles, “Never Grow Old” and “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” were released on gospel radio stations. Under the influence of singer/songwriter Sam Cooke, Aretha, after turning eighteen, told her father, who was also her manager at the time she decided to become secular, that her father agreed and helped her produce a two-song demo that made waves and soon brought Columbia Records to her door.
In 1960 she signed 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 Charts. 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 to Atlantic Records in 1966.
Her Atlantic debut album, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, was a huge success, as were her two other singles, Baby I Love You and “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman. She received her first two Grammys in 1968, and just two months before her death she received the SCLC Drum Beat Award for Musicians from her longtime friend Martin Luther King Jr.
She left Atlantic Records in 1979 and signed a contract with Clive Davis’ Arista Records, and in the same year, she was given the rare opportunity to perform at the Royal Albert Hall in front of the Queen of England – Queen Elizabeth.
In 2006 she performed at the Super Bowl XL alongside Aaron Neville and Dr. John. Later she made international headlines at the inauguration ceremony of President Barack Obama that same year. In 2010 she received an honorary doctorate from Yale University.
In 2014 Aretha Franklin joined RCA Records, Columbia’s sister label through Sony Music Entertainment, and worked with her old friend Clive Davis. She is the first woman to have 100 songs in the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Charts of Billboard.
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 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 and 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.