Aretha Franklin "The Queen of Soul" dies at 76

Amanda Cooper
August 16, 2018 - 10:43 am

(Photo Credit: ©MCT-USA TODAY Sports Images)

The world is mourning the loss of iconic singing legend Aretha Franklin. The Queen of Soul transitioned today at the age of 76.

Aretha Louise Franklin was born March 25th, 1942 to Pastor CL Franklin and Barbara Siggers Franklin in Memphis, Tennessee.  When Franklin was five years old, her family moved to Detroit, Michigan where her father took over the pastoral duties of New Bethel Baptist Church. In 1948 her parents separated because of her father's rumored promiscuous behavior. After her mother moved away, she later died in 1952 when Aretha was ten years old. The late singer's musical talents were an extension of her mother who was an accomplished piano player and vocalist. After the loss of her mother, Aretha turned to music and learned to play the piano by ear and began singing solos in her father's church choir. 

Upon turning fourteen, her father recognized her talent and started managing her singing career. They both went on the road touring with various gospel caravans, and she signed her first contract in 1956 with JVB Records. Although the singer dropped out of high school her sophomore year, she began an iconic career that includes over 100 musical hits and a wealth of awards. She has been granted honorary degrees from Harvard University,  Princeton University, Yale University, Brown University, Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory of Music, and the University of Michigan for her contributions to music.  She was also granted an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by Wayne State University and an honorary Doctor of Law by Bethune-Cookman College.

The singer's personal life has seen its share of highs and lows. At the age of twelve years old she gave birth to her first child, then at fourteen years old, she had a second child. Despite objections from her father, in 1961 she married Theodore "Ted" White. In 1964, Franklin gave birth to the couples first child and her third; however, after a contentious marriage that involved domestic violence, Franklin and White later divorced in 1969.  In 1970, the singer gave birth to her youngest son, whose father was her road manager Ken Cunningham. Although the couple did not marry, Franklin did get married again in 1978 to her second husband, actor Glynn Turman. The couple married at her father's church, and the union made Franklin a stepmother to Turman's three children from a previous marriage. Unfortunately, Franklin and Turman separated in 1982 then divorced in 1984. In 1988, she began a relationship with longtime companion Willie Wilkerson. In 2012 and it was reported that Franklin and Wilkerson had plans to walk down the aisle; however, the couple called off their engagement.

Throughout the years, the singers soulful and iconic voice has left a legacy of music for current and future generations. In 1979, Franklin received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Among all of her many accolades, in 1987 she was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Most notably, in 1985 the singer's voice was declared a Michigan "natural resource." 

The Queen of Soul's iconic voice will be remembered forever.  She leaves behind four sons Clarence Franklin, Edward Franklin, Ted White Jr, Kecalf Cunningham, and her grandchildren.