Three years after the passing of Aretha Franklin, the world keeps mourning the iconic singer. However, the most affected are her four adult sons, whom fans know little to nothing about.
The Queen of Soul passed away in August of 2018 after a battle with cancer, and she left a hole in the music industry and the lives of her family. Aretha was a renowned artist, a dedicated philanthropist, and the proud mom of four adult sons.
However, the singer kept her private life away from the spotlight as best as she could, and that’s why some fans are still surprised to learn that she became a mother for the first time at the young age of 12.
Aretha Franklin on stage at the Elton John AIDS Foundation Commemorates Its 25th Year And Honors Founder Sir Elton John on November 7, 2017 in New York City | Source: Getty Images
CLARENCE, THE FIRSTBORN
Her first child was born in January 1955, and she named him after her father. This drove some people back then to theorize that Aretha’s father got her pregnant, but a few years later, it was revealed in one of her handwritten wills, discovered in 2019, that Clarence's father was Edward Jordan.
While Clarence was never interested in music, he made sure to pay back to his mother all her love and dedication, as she was just a child, another child when she had him. Clarence was always there for his mother, as the eldest of her children.
Clarence Franklin (R), Aretha Franklin's son, hugs an attendee after his mother's funeral at the Greater Grace Temple in on August 31, 2018 in Detroit | Source: Getty Images
He is believed to have written several songs, including some recorded by his mother. It was revealed in her handwritten wills that Aretha had made "special provisions" for Clarence.
He has undisclosed special needs, and his current occupation and exact whereabouts are unknown.
EDWARD, A NATURAL PERFORMER
Edward Franklin was born two years after Clarence when Aretha was 14. His father is a man named Edward Jordan, but that’s all the information made public about him.
Edward Jr. became interested in music at a young age. He had the privilege of performing with his mother on several occasions and even sang at his grandfather's funeral in 2015. Edward also sang at his mother's funeral in 2018.
Even though he never pursued a solo career, Aretha had him record a song with her for a Christmas album, “This Christmas, Aretha.”
He also sang some background vocals for Aretha’s 2011 release “A Woman Falling Out Of Love,” in her cover of the gospel song “His Eyes Is On the Sparrow.” When Aretha passed, Edward sang Marvin Gaye's "Mercy Mercy Me" as a musical tribute to her.
William Wilkerson, singer Aretha Franklin, and Edward Franklin attend BET Honors 2014 at Warner Theatre on February 8, 2014 in Washington | Source: Getty Images
The man allegedly had some run-ins with the law. He was also involved in an investigation surrounding arson at his mother’s house in Detroit, but he was never charged.
In 2010, he was beaten by three unknown men at a gas station and had to undergo surgery to fix his injuries.
THEODORE JR., THE MUSICIAN
Aretha was 19 years old when she married her first husband, Theodore White Sr. in 1961. Three years later, they welcomed a son, Theodore Jr., into the world. He’s the most musically inclined of Aretha’s four children.
He attended Michigan State University, knows how to play the guitar, and has worked as a record producer, music engineer, and tunesmith. Theodore played the guitar for his mother on several occasions, but he also has a solo career as Teddy Richards.
Theodore collaborated with the Australian rock band INXS on several of their biggest hits and was the opening act for other groups such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, Seal, and The Verve Pipe.
KECALF, THE CHRISTIAN RAPPER
The youngest of Aretha’s children, Kecalf Franklin, was born in 1970 to the singer and her then-boyfriend and road manager, Ken Cunningham. Even though they never married, the couple dated from 1968 to 1976.
Kecalf had a short-lived career as a Christian rapper, but he stood on the same stage as his mom on different occasions. The most memorable for him, perhaps, was Aretha’s 2008 concert at the Radio City Music Hall.
Kecalf has also worked to highlight his mother's history of activism. In 2018, he appeared in a YouTube video from the National Civil Rights Museum Freedom Awards with his children Victorie and Jordan Franklin and spoke about her efforts.
In recent years, Kecalf has been critical of the upcoming works about his mother. He has spoken out against the "Genius" series and the biopic "Respect," which stars Jennifer Hudson as Aretha.
Aretha Franklin at the Hollywood Christmas Parade with her husband Glynn Turman, her son Kecalf Cunningham, her stepson, and her stepdaughter Stephanie Turman, on November 23, 1978, in Los Angeles | Source: Getty Images
VICTORIE, A THIRD-GENERATION STAR
Although her father doesn’t seem to have what it takes to make it in the industry, Victorie Franklin, Kecalf’s daughter, might make a difference.
The young woman is a star in the making. She performed at the BET Awards in 2014 as part of a tribute to her iconic grandmother, and her rendition of Tamela Mann's “Take Me to the King” earned her a standing ovation from the audience.
Mbuso Mandela, Aretha Franklin, and record producer Berry Gordy appear onstage at BET Honors 2014 at Warner Theatre on February 8, 2014 in Washington | Source: GettyImages/Global Images of Ukraine
Victorie received one-on-one coaching from her grandmother, and the Queen of Soul believed that she was coming along very well.
After Aretha’s death, Victorie took to Twitter to share an exclusive video of Aretha Franklin singing and playing the piano five months before her death.
"Words can't describe the pain I'm feeling, but God is telling me that she is at peace," she wrote in her post, adding:
“Today, we lost an icon, a legend, but today I lost my grandma. I love u and imma make u proud. [sic]"
Maybe we’ll see Victorie on the stage in the future, keeping alive her grandmother’s legacy.
Aretha Franklin at the "Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives" Premiere Concert on April 19, 2017 in New York | Source: Getty Images
MORE ABOUT ARETHA
The Queen of Soul was universally ranked among the greatest, most influential singers of the 20th century. Her publicist had confirmed that she died from advanced pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type.
The daughter of Detroit minister C.L Franklin was known for her seminal blending of gospel, pop, standards, R&B, and blues. All of these defined what would become known as soul.
Aretha Franklin at the 39th Annual Kennedy Center Honors on December 4, 2016 in Washington | Source: Getty Images
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.
Before her death, she had sung at the inaugurations for three American Presidents: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. Besides singing at inaugurations, she also sang for Queen Elizabeth in 1980.
She created so many hits, and more than 100 of her songs made the Billboard charts. Aretha won 18 Grammy Awards and was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
Also, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1979 and is one of the most honored artists in Grammy Award history.
She received the Grammy Legend Award in 1991 and then was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994, the same year that she was a Kennedy Center Honoree.
In addition to the endless list of accolades, she is in the NAACP Hall of Fame, the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and in 2005, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
THE BATTLE OF THE BROTHERS
Shortly after Aretha's death, bitter squabbling surfaced as her four sons and others debated whether any of the handwritten documents found in her house could qualify as valid wills.
As of 2019, the estate had not been accurately valued, but some experts estimated that it could ultimately be worth hundreds of millions of dollars — if the family could manage it properly.
When Aretha died, at age 76, her family had believed she had no will. Under Michigan law, that meant that her estate would be divided equally among her four sons.
With that understanding, the sons appointed Sabrina Owens, the daughter of Aretha's sister Erma, as the estate's representative or executor. However, the surfacing of her handwritten notes changed the dynamic of things.
Under Michigan law, a handwritten will may be admitted even without witnesses, as long as it is signed, dated, and in the deceased's handwriting.