Aretha Franklin: 8 fascinating facts about the Queen of Soul

16 August 2018, 15:24 | Updated: 16 August 2018, 16:41

By Tom Eames

She 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.

Aretha Franklin's 8 greatest songs of all time

  1. 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.

  2. Who were Aretha Franklin's parents?

    Her 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.

  3. When was Aretha Franklin born?

    Aretha Franklin was born on March 25, 1942.

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

  4. 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. The father of the child was Donald Burk, a boy she knew from school.

    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 is the child of her road manager Ken Cunningham.

  5. 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.

  6. How many records has Aretha Franklin sold?

    Aretha Franklin
    Picture: Getty

    Aretha is one of the best-selling artists of all time, having sold over 75 million records worldwide.

    She has released 42 studio albums, and her biggest hit in the UK was her George Michael duet 'I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)' in 1987, reaching number one.

  7. How many awards has Aretha Franklin won?

    Aretha has been honoured with many awards and nominations throughout her career. These include 18 Grammy Awards.

    In 2007, she won a Golden Globe for her 'Never Gonna Break My Faith' from the movie Bobby.

    In 2018, she was named the 'The Most Popular Female Artist in America' in a YouGov US poll.

  8. Which Presidents did Aretha Franklin sing for?

    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."