Aretha Franklin has died at the age of 76 after several days in hospice care at her Detroit home following a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Franklin’s family issued a statement saying, “In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family.”
Franklin was married twice and has four sons, and some among them have followed in the footsteps of their mother, who started out as a gospel singer, before becoming a music legend.
Here’s what you need to know about Franklin’s children:
1. Her Son Ted White, Jr. Is a Guitar Player & Singer
Ted White, Jr. was born in 1964 to Franklin and Franklin’s former manager Ted White. The coupled wed in 1961 and separated eight years later. Ted developed a passion for music at a young age, and according to his MusicPage profile, he attended Michigan State University. In 1994, he gave a cassette-demo to INXS keyboardist Andrew Farris, who agreed to help him rework the songs for an official release.
“Andrew, who wrote many of the INXS signature hits, was very impressed with my writing and invited me to collaborate,” he recalled. “After writing & recording 2 songs, we negotiated a music publishing deal. We worked exceptionally well together and we ended up collaborating on 11 tracks!”
White since gone on to release two more albums under the stage name Teddy Richards. “I’ve evolved from a self-taught guitarist into a producer, engineer and accomplished tunesmith,” he said. “I truly love music and enjoy the journey that it’s taken me on.” In addition to his recording career, Richards has been an opening act for INXS, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Seal, and The Verve Pipe.
He’s also played backup guitar during several of his mother’s concerts.
2. The Parentage of Her Son Clarence Franklin, Jr. Has Been Subject to Controversy
Franklin gave birth to her first son Clarence in 1955. She was twelve at the time, and named him after her father, the revered C.L. Franklin. According to the Daily Mail, rumors began to surface that C.L. was the father of the child, but the real father was a man named Donald Burk, who Franklin met while they were attending school.
In his book Respect, author David Ritz details the lifestyle that Franklin’s father maintained, which was reportedly a church that fronted orgies. Ray Charles, who encountered C.L. Franklin’s gospel group in the 1950s, said: “When it came to pure heart singing, they were mother*****s. When it came to pure sex, they were wilder than me – and that’s saying something. In those days I had a thing for orgies, but I had to be the only cat in the room with two or three chicks.”
“The gospel people didn’t think that way,” Charles continued. “The cats liked it with the cats and the chicks liked it with the chicks and no one minded mixing it up this way or that. I got a kick outta seeing how God’s people were going for it hard and heavy every which way. I was just surprised to see how loose they were.”
3. Her Son Edward Franklin Has Sung With Her Onstage
Edward was born on January 22, 1957 to Franklin and a man named Edward Jordan. While he hasn’t released any solo material, Edward has performed with his mother several times, including a 2015 tribute to his grandfather C.L. Franklin. According to the Detroit News, Edward paid tribute to his grandfather by singing one of his mother’s favorite gospel songs: “His Eye is On the Sparrow.”
His performance was said to be fantastic, leaving many audiences members crying. He received a standing ovation after he was finished. He sung backup vocals when Franklin recorded the song on her album A Woman Falling In Love.
Edward has also been involved in several criminal investigations. In 2002, he was considered a suspect in an arson fire at his mother’s 10,000-square-foot home in Detroit, but the Telegraph reports that he was never charged. In 2010, Edward was severely beaten by three unknown assailants at a Detroit gas station.
A woman who was with Edward told Michigan Live that she went into the gas station and when she came out, he had been attacked. The woman then drove Franklin to a hospital and then headed to the police station to file a report. Edward subsequently had to undergo emergency oral surgery.
There have been rumors that Franklin had an affair with legendary singer Sam Cooke around the time of Edward’s birth, and that he was the child’s actual father. There has never been evidence to support this theory, however. Franklin described Jordan, Edward’s father, as “just some player.”
4. Her Son Kecalf Franklin Cunningham Is a Christian Rapper
Kecalf Franklin Cunningham was born on March 28, 1970 to Franklin and her road manager Ken Cunningham, who dated between 1968 and 1976. Kecalf has performed numerous times onstage with his mother, most notably during her 2008 concert at the Radio City Music Hall.
In their review, the New York Times said that Kecalf, who raps under his birth name, may still have growing to do as an artist. “[There was] an interlude featuring her son Kecalf Cunningham, a Christian rapper, who came with a backpack, a hoodie and some cheap-sounding recorded tracks,” they wrote. “After what felt like ages, it was a relief to have Ms. Franklin return, energies renewed, to belt out ‘Chain of Fools.'”
In 2017, Kecalf accompanied his mother at the unveiling of Aretha Franklin Way, a street renamed in her honor. According to the Detroit News, Aretha Franklin Way is located near Madison Street and Comerica Park, where the Detroit Tigers play.
5. She’s Encouraged Her Sons to Pursue Their Musical Interests
In a 1995 interview with The Katz Tapes, Franklin spoke about her sons and how they are pursuing musical careers. “My youngest son, Kecalf is a hip-hopper and a rapper,” she explained. “And my other son, Teddy, plays guitar. He plays in my band and he’s been doing some things lately with some musicians over in London. He sings, too, and he’s looking for his own record deal.”
Franklin said that while Edward and Clarence aren’t as interested in music, she would have them all appear on a family album. In a 2012 interview with the Today Show, Franklin added that she made sure to prepare them for show business: “I think parents have to really talk to their children before they leave home . . . [so they] leave home prepared, really.”
In 2015, Franklin told CNN that its difficult to raise sons in the modern day. “My sons grew up pretty much the same way I did,” she said. “Today, its different. Most mothers in the African American community are very concerned about their children and talking to them about how to conduct themselves.”