Aretha Franklin facts: Queen of Soul's age, husbands, children and vocal range explained

26 May 2021, 18:13 | Updated: 11 July 2022, 15:33

Aretha Franklin was one of the most successful and iconic artists of all time, and rightfully owned the title of 'Queen of Soul'.

Here are all the big and important facts about Aretha Franklin that every fan should know.

  1. Who were Aretha Franklin's parents?

    Aretha Franklin (centre) with her father CL and sister Erma (right)
    Aretha Franklin (centre) with her father CL and sister Erma (right). Picture: Getty

    Aretha Franklin's parents were Barbara (née Siggers) and Clarence LaVaughn 'CL' Franklin. Her father was a preacher from Shelby, Mississippi, while her mother was a talented piano player and singer.

    Her parents also had three other children, and both CL and Barbara had children from outside their marriage. The family relocated to Buffalo, New York when Aretha was two.

    Before her fifth birthday, CL Franklin permanently relocated the family to Detroit, Michigan, where he took over the pastorship of New Bethel Baptist Church. Her parents had a troubled marriage and in 1948, they separated, with Barbara relocating back to Buffalo with her son, Vaughn, from a previous relationship.

    Contrary to popular public belief, Aretha's mother did not abandon her children. Aretha recalled seeing her mother in Buffalo during the summer, and Barbara also frequently visited her children in Detroit. Aretha's mother died in 1952, before her tenth birthday. Several women, including her grandmother Rachel, and Mahalia Jackson, took turns helping with the children.

    Her father died in 1984 at the age of 69.

  2. When was Aretha Franklin born?

    Aretha Franklin was born on March 25, 1942.

    At the time of her death, she was 76 years old.

  3. How many children did Aretha Franklin have?

    Aretha was a mother of four sons. She first became pregnant at the age of 12, and gave birth to her first child, named Clarence after her father, in 1955.

    According to biographer David Ritz, the father of her oldest son Clarence was believed to be Donald Burke, a boy from school.

    However, it was later reported in one of her handwritten wills, discovered in 2019, that Clarence's father was actually Edward Jordan - whom she went on to have son Edward with in 1957.

    In 1957, aged 14, she had a second child named Edward after his father Edward Jordan. While Aretha was pursuing her career, her grandmother Rachel and sister Erma took turns raising the children.

    Her third child, Ted White, Jr, was born in 1964 and is known professionally as Teddy Richards.

    Her youngest son, Kecalf Cunningham, was born in 1970 and is the child of her road manager Ken Cunningham.

  4. Was Aretha Franklin ever married?

    Aretha Franklin and her longtime partner Willie Wilkerson in 2015
    Aretha Franklin and her longtime partner Willie Wilkerson in 2015. Picture: Getty

    Aretha married twice, first to Theodore 'Ted' White in 1961 aged 19. After a difficult marriage that involved domestic violence, they separated in 1968. She then married her second husband, actor Glynn Turman, in 1978, and became stepmother of Turman's three children from a previous marriage.

    After their divorce in 1984, Aretha planned to marry longtime companion Willie Wilkerson, but she eventually called the 2012 engagement off.

  5. What was Aretha Franklin's vocal range?

    Aretha Franklin had a vocal range spanning about four octaves at her peak.

    Her vocal range was said to be approximately between G2 and E6, and she had a mostly mezzo-soprano voice.

  6. Which Presidents did Aretha Franklin sing for?

    Aretha Franklin Performs at the Inauguration of President Obama

    Aretha Franklin sang at the inaugurations for three American Presidents: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

    "American history wells up when Aretha sings", president Barack Obama said of his emotional response to her performance of 'Natural Woman' at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors.

    "Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R&B, rock and roll - the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope."