Aretha Franklin has died after a long battle with cancer. The Respect singer was not married at the time of her passing, but she was in a serious relationship with her longtime partner, Willie Wilkerson.
Franklin and Wilkerson first met in the 1980s at an autograph signing in Detroit. Wilkerson asked Franklin to sign the cast on his broken leg, and the two got to talking. They exchanged information and ended up become great friends. It didn’t take long for their friendship to progress, however. Franklin referred to her and Wilkerson as a “a fiery match” and said that they were “very compatible.”
She had plans to marry Wilkerson back in 2012, but they called off their plans to exchange vows a few weeks after getting engaged.
“Will and I have decided we were moving a little too fast, and there were a number of things that had not been thought through thoroughly. There will be no wedding at this time. We will not comment on it any further because of the very personal and sensitive nature of it. We appreciate all of the many well wishes from friends,” Franklin said in a statement at the time.
You can read more about Wilkerson here.
White was Franklin’s manager back in the 60s. The two wed in 1961, and had one child together. Eight years later, White and Franklin’s marriage ended following reports of domestic abuse, according to InStyle. After their divorce, Franklin’s brother, Cecil, took on the role of her manager.
In 1978, Franklin got remarried. She and Glynn Turman met in 1977 at a benefit for needy kids in Los Angeles. Franklin’s son Clarence played matchmaker for his mom, and it worked. The following year, the two celebrated their wedding. After four years together, however, the two separated. Their divorce was finalized two years later.
Franklin was a mother to four children; Ted White Jr., Kecalf Cunningham, Clarence Franklin, and Edward Franklin.
“Aretha wed for the first time at 19, but not before delivering two of her four children. [It is believed that] Aretha … gave birth to her first child when she was just 12 years old, welcoming a boy named after her father, Clarence. (The father was reportedly a boy she knew from school named Donald Burk). Just two years later, Aretha birthed her second son, Edward, named after his father Edward Jordan. Both children were given Franklin’s maiden name,” InStyle reports.
She welcomed her third child, Ted Jr., with White in 1964, and her fourth child, Kecalf, with her road manager Ken Cunningham, in the late 60s.