Aretha Franklin Family: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

aretha franklin family

Getty Aretha Franklin's family includes four sons.

Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, was surrounded by family as she lay gravely ill.

Franklin has now died after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Aretha’s family includes four children. Her childhood combined the talents of both parents as her mother, too, was a gospel singer and Aretha got her start in her father’s Baptist church. She would carry those sounds with her, enriching them with her powerful and soaring voice. However, her family was also ruptured by infidelity, divorce, and abandonment, according to an author who chronicled her life story.

Daily Mail reported on August 12, 2018 that Aretha was “gravely ill” at the age of 76. She had been in failing health for some time, cancelling a series of concerts in summer 2017 upon the order of her physician. Showbiz 411 reported on August 12 that Aretha’s family had requested prayers and privacy and were with her in Detroit, Michigan.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Aretha Franklin’s Father Was a Well-Known Preacher

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Aretha Franklin’s sound derives, in part, from her childhood, and her father’s role as a preacher.

According to, Aretha’s dad was Reverend Clarence La Vaughan “C. L.” Franklin, who was a Baptist preacher. Aretha was born in Memphis, Tennessee and raised in a childhood environment steeped in gospel.

Aretha’s first singing audience came in her father’s church, reported, noting that her father moved to Detroit, Michigan during her early years after her parents separated and her mother died of a heart attack. Her father was a public figure, especially in Detroit, for his preaching abilities.

In fact, Aretha’s teenage songs were later released as an album called Songs of Faith in 1956.

David Ritz, the author of a book about Aretha (and former co-author of her autobiography), painted a sordid tale, describing her dad as promiscuous and living a life that was a “sex circus.”

2. Aretha Franklin’s Mother Was a Gospel Singer But Abandoned Her

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Aretha Franklin

Aretha got some of her singing chops from her mother, Barbara Siggers Franklin, who was a gospel singer. But Franklin’s mother died when she was only 10-years-old after having moved to New York following her split with Aretha’s dad, according to the New York Times.

Aretha’s mom did briefly follow the family to Detroit, but she moved to Buffalo, New York, shortly thereafter. Meanwhile, her daughter was soon to draw attention for her piano playing as well as her singing.

According to The New York Times, the family was a troubled one by certain respects, however. Both of Aretha’s parents had out-of-wedlock children, and, when Barbara had hers, she “abandoned Aretha” and moved away.

3. Aretha Franklin Has Four Children

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Kirk Douglas and Aretha Franklin both received Kennedy Center Honors in 1994.

Aretha Franklin gave birth to four children. According to The Root, all four are sons. They are Edward and Clarence Franklin, Ted White Jr. and Kecalf Cunningham.

The Root reports that White and Cunningham have worked in the music business.

The New York Times reported that two of Aretha’s children were born when she was only 14-years-old. Her first child was said to be fathered by a school friend named Donald Burk.

A man she knew named Edward Jordan was the father of child two, Daily Mail reports. One of her children was the product of a relationship with Ted White, described by Daily Mail as a Detroit pimp. Road manager Ken Cunningham is the father of her fourth child, who is a Christian rapper.

4. Aretha Was Married Once & Has a Partner of Many Years

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Aretha married twice, and she divorced twice. According to The Root, she stayed on friendly terms with her second husband, whose name was Glynn Turman. He is an actor known for The Wire.

In January 2012, People Magazine reported that Franklin was engaged to a man named Willie Wilkerson. According to People, she has referred to him as her “forever friend” and they were linked together as far back as the 1980s when they appeared together on the cover of Jet Magazine.

Telegraph reports that Wilkerson is a former firefighter whom Aretha met while signing autographs years ago. “We stayed close and he escorts me on occasion and we’re just cool. We’re real cool,” she told Jet Magazine in 2007.

She was also married to Ted White, for eight years and Turman for six.

5. Aretha Franklin Was Born into a Family of Five


Aretha was born in a family of five siblings. According to, she was the fourth child in the family.

Aretha and her siblings were raised in large part by their grandmother, The New York Times reported, because her father’s preaching made him a public figure and because of her mother’s absence.

Three of her siblings died from cancer.

It was her dad who would remain the most powerful influence in her life, many reports say.