The Secret Life of Aretha Franklin: ‘orgy-loving father’ to ‘alcoholism, addiction and abuse’

2 min



The respected singer, who passed earlier this week, had a very tough upbringing. She lived a turbulent and dramatic life before passing at the age of 76. The queen of soul lost her 8 year battle to pancreatic cancer in her home in Detroit, but she left behind a life not too many knew about.

The famed singer went through much, from her teenage pregnancies to an ‘orgy-loving’ father, alcoholism and abuse, according to David Ritz’ 2014 book, RESPECT.

Dad Clarence LaVaughan ‘CL’ Franklin was a prominent Baptist minister, whose church allegedly played host to wild orgies – the likes of which even promiscuous singer Ray Charles was surprised by.

“When it came to pure sex, they were wilder than me – and that’s saying something. In those days I had a thing for orgies, but I had to be the only cat in the room with two or three chicks,” he told Ritz.

“The gospel people didn’t think that way. The cats liked it with the cats and the chicks liked it with the chicks and no one minded mixing it up this way or that.”

Ray’s claims were backed up by R&B and gospel singer Billy Preston, who said: “It was the church crowd where the vibe was wide open.

“It was anything goes. In the community outside the church, gay men were called sissies. But inside the church, a lot of the music was created by gay men.”

With her parent divorcing and the passing of her mother all by the age of 10, she grew very close to her fayther and was introduced to adulthood early, perhaps unsurprisingly given his controversial lifestyle.

She was said to have spent time in a hotel room with late soul singer Sam Cooke when she was just 12, and fell pregnant with her first child with school friend Donald Burk that same year.

She had a second son named Edward just two years later.

Still relatively a child herself, Aretha handed over a lot of the childcare responsibility for her sons to her grandmother Rachel and older sister Erma while she pursued her music career.

By 19, Aretha married her manager, Ted White Snr, who allegedly introduced the singer to weed and alcohol.

Although her singing talent is undeniable, Aretha’s business sense was lacking and she ended up in trouble after frequently failing to turn up for gigs or forgetting to pay bills.

Ten years ago, authorities threatened to foreclose on her Detroit mansion over a overdue tax bill, which the singer speedily resolved.

In 2015, she faced a similar threat in Oakland, California, over her $700,000 home due to late bills.

Over 20 years ago, Aretha had to settle out of court after she was sued by the Saks Fifth Avenue department store over $262,851 in credit card bills.

The lid on Aretha’s private life was lifted four years ago when her official biographer Ritz decided to write his own tell-all book about the diva, entitled Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin.

Ritz co-wrote the star’s 1999 autobiography Aretha: From These Roots, but in later years claimed the book was a “failure” and full of “enormous gaps and oversights” because all the juicy details were “off-limits” by the singer herself.

All in all, may the Queen Rest in Peace. She will never be forgotten…


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