Clarence Franklin, Aretha Franklin’s eldest son, was born when Franklin was just 12-years-old, on March 28, 1956. Rumors swirled about his parentage, with many people believing that Franklin’s father Clarence, whom she had named her son after, was actually the father.
However, Clarence’s real father was believed to be a man named Donald Burke, who Franklin met while they were attending school. Franklin never publicly confirmed this, but David Ritz, who wrote multiple biographies on Franklin’s life, revealed in his book on Franklin’s life.
Franklin’s father did not chastise her for becoming pregnant so young, “perhaps remembering that in 1940, during his marriage to Barbara, he had fathered a child with a 13-year-old member of his Memphis congregation,” according to The Guardian.
“She had a tough childhood,” Ritz told PEOPLE before her death.
Clarence Was Often Cared For By Franklin’s Grandmother “Big Mama”
Clarence was cared for by Franklin’s grandmother “Big Mama,” while Franklin pursued her musical career.
“I still wanted to get out and hang out with my friends,” she told Ebony in 1995 of young motherhood, according to PEOPLE. “I wanted to be in two places at the same time. But my grandmother helped me a lot, and my sister and my cousin. They would babysit so I could get out occasionally.”
Both Clarence and Franklin’s second son Edward were given her family name, and not much else is known about their fathers. Neither of the two eldest sons are terribly interested in music, but Franklin once said that she would love to have them all appear on a family album. In a 2012 interview with the Today Show, Franklin said that she made sure to prepare them for show business regardless of their career choices: “I think parents have to really talk to their children before they leave home . . . [so they] leave home prepared, really.”
Franklin’s two youngest children both followed in her footsteps and took a path in music. Her youngest son, Kecalf Cunningham, is a Christian rapper, and Ted has played backup guitar during several of his mother’s concerts. Edward has also sung with their mother on stage as well.
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.”
Franklin Died on August 16 Surrounded By Her Loved Ones in Detroit
The “Queen of Soul” died at age 76 after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer. She died in hospice care in Detroit Thursday morning.
Quinn told The Associated Press through a family statement that Franklin passed Thursday morning. The statement said “Franklin’s official cause of death was due to advanced pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin’s oncologist, Dr. Philip Phillips of Karmanos Cancer Institute.”
The family added: “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. The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds.”