Aretha Franklin has died. Per Fox News, the “Queen of Soul” passed Thursday morning at her home in Detroit. She was 76. “We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family,” her loved ones wrote in a statement. “The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds.”
Franklin’s iconic status, as well as her musical success, has led many to wonder how much money she made. According to Fortune, she had an estimated net worth of $60 million. Read on to learn how the singer made her fortune and how she liked to spend it during her lifetime.
1. She Sold Over 75 Million Albums Worldwide
Franklin had a rough start to her recording career. Her first album, Songs of Faith, was released in 1956 when she was just 14 years old. According to Fortune, Columbia Records didn’t know what to do with her initially, and by 1966, they had lost $90K on her albums. Franklin eventually broke off from Columbia and signed with Atlantic Records, where she hit paydirt with the 1967 single “Respect.” The single, which would become her signature song, topped the charts and was the first in a string of hits that included “Chain of Fools” and “I Say a Little Prayer.”
1972’s Amazing Grace was Franklin’s biggest-selling album, eventually going double platinum and earning her the 1973 Grammy Award for Best Gospel Soul Performance. She would go on to release 42 studio albums and win 18 Grammy Awards, including a whopping eight consecutive awards for Best R&B Female Vocal Performance. At the time of her death she sold over 75 million albums worldwide. She also had 73 charting hits on the Billboard Hot 100, more than any other female artist in history.
2. She Regularly Sent $10K Checks to the New Bethel Baptist Church
According to the Detroit Press, charity was a part of Franklin’s life well before she became famous. The publication says that the singer would often buy lunch for other, less fortunate classmates when she was a student at Northern High School. Franklin’s father C.L. Franklin was a Baptist minister who preached the importance of helping others, and she maintained the practice her entire life.
Up until her death, Franklin sent out $10K checks to the New Bethel Baptist Church (where her father preached) at least a few times a year. “It’s her way of giving back,” said Rev. Robert Smith, Jr. “Everything is wrapped around her father and her love for her father and keeping that tradition alive.”
Franklin also supported other churches and food banks in Detroit, as well as organizations like Save the Children and Easterseals. When she was honored as the 2008 MusiCares Person of the Year by the Grammys, the dinner that was held in her honor helped raise an additional $4.5 million.
“Aretha Franklin has had such an impact on the community over the years,” Rev. Smith added. “Countless people have been given hope for life because of her singing, and the way her voice has made every guy and every girl feel like they could make it.”
3. She Was Frequently Cited for Failing to Pay Bills
Despite Franklin’s wealth, she faced a myriad of legal issues starting in the 1990s. According to the Mirror, it was then that she was sued by the Saks Fifth Avenue department store for owing over $262,851 in credit card bills. The singer eventually settled out of court.
In 1999, the Detroit Free Press released a report titled “Why Doesn’t Aretha Pay Her Bills?” that included a court history and comments from dozens of local creditors claiming that the singer doesn’t pay her bills. The report dates her credit issues back to 1988, and cites more than 30 lawsuits as examples.
Bruce Bolton, who was a local florist, had to take Franklin to court to collect nearly $1,100 in late payments. “Sometimes, you write these things off,” he said. “But I think I just felt that she does this to so many people, and I didn’t want to be among the people she did it to.” Even David Greenbaum, who was Franklin’s accountant until 1992, eventually sued her for for nearly $7,000 in nonpayment: “She was above all the mundane activity of paying bills,” he explained.
In addition to her credit, two of Franklin’s home have faced foreclosure due to unpaid bills. In the mid-2000s, her Detroit home faced foreclosure because she had failed to pay an overdue tax bill. Her resolved the issue, but a similar situation occurred in 2015, when she failed to pay over $700K in bills on her home in Oakland.
Franklin eventually released a statement calling the reports “malicious and vicious.”
“Due to my travel and performance schedule and lack of a secretary in place during that period of time, that small fraction of people, less than 0.1 percent of the people with whom I do business, who were not paid, utilized their option to sue,” she wrote. “This is not uncommon. Celebrities are sued every day for a number of reasons.”
4. She Earned an Estimated $80K Per Concert Appearance
According to E! Online, Franklin continued to rake in profits as she got older. The publication claims that she was still commanding an estimated $80K for a concert appearance.
Despite the mass totals of her concert salaries, however, some of these performances caused financial trouble for the singer. Franklin organized a 1996 Christmas concert at her father’s former church, but the Detroit Press reports that she accidentally oversold the event. “She really needs somebody else to serve as buffer,” said Larry Robinson, who helped organize subsequent concerts. “She’s not a bad person. But when you’re trying to play every position on the team…it’s going to be rough.”
Franklin announced that she would be reducing the number of performances she gave in 2017. “I feel very, very enriched and satisfied with respect to where my career came from and where it is now,” she told WDIV Local 4. “I’ll be pretty much satisfied, but I’m not going to go anywhere and just sit down and do nothing. That wouldn’t be good either.”
Franklin’s last performance was at the inaugural Detroit Music Weekend on June 10, 2017. You can a clip from the performance above.
5. She Filed a $10 Million Lawsuit Against the News Nerd In 2014
In 2014, Franklin filed a $10 million lawsuit against the satirical website News Nerd. The site published a fake story about Patti LaBelle punching Franklin at an R&B concert on March 20, and that LaBelle was arrested for assault and battery after hitting Franklin with “a Mayweather style right and left.” The story was reportedly inspired by Franklin “throwing shade” at LaBelle during public events, by the former didn’t appreciate the site’s humor, and issued a denial of the incident on April 15.
“I’ve never heard anything crazier—regarding myself and Patti allegedly fighting on March 20, in Atlanta,” Franklin wrote in her official statement. “On March 20, I was in New York City readying for my birthday patty (Sorry. LOL. Laughing at my typo error). I meant PARTY, which we all had one fabulous time. Patti and I are cool and we always have been. I enjoyed her at the White House. Classic Patti.”
According to Billboard, she filed the $10 million lawsuit shortly after. Franklin’s publicist Gwendolyn Quinn issued a statement on her behalf that read: “The stories were not presented as satire or humor. It was presented as a serious news story intended to depict me in a slanderous and derogatory way — defamation of character.”