In a new book by David Ritz, who co-authored a white-washed Aretha Franklin autobiography 15 years ago, the secret life of the “Queen of Soul” has been revealed in all its glory.
The book, which was released in October 2014, portrays a very different side of the Aretha Franklin that most people know and love, detailing a huge appetite for sex, shopping trips and fried chicken, among other things.
Ritz alleges that Franklin tortured her sisters, her brother, producers and managers with her tantrums, rages and jealousies throughout her life, as she suffered from no small amount of insecurities.
According to the book, Franklin fabricated stories about mystery lovers and released those stories to the press just to keep her name in print. On top of that, it’s been said that her father was a promiscuous gospel preacher whose church was a front for orgies which Ray Charles described as a “sex circus.” The fact that Franklin became pregnant at the age of just 12, apparently awakened sexually at a young age due to her father’s “church parties,” sparked rumors back then that she had fallen pregnant by her own father.
Before she turned 13, Aretha gave birth to a baby boy, whom she named Clarence after her father. In the end it turned out that the father of the child was Donald Burk, a boy she knew from school. At the age of 14, Aretha Franklin had a second child with Edward Jordan, with both of her children taking her family name and being raised in her home, by her.
Franklin’s seeming obsession with becoming a famous singer led her into the hands of the slickest pimp in Detroit, Ted White, who had women as lovers, courtesans and singers. He introduced her to alcohol and cannabis and molded her into his type of “lady.”
Her sister, Carolyn, said about Aretha at the time she was with White, “She was drinking so much we thought she was on the verge of a breakdown.”
In the 70’s, Aretha Franklin got her drinking under control with the help of her road manager, Ken Cunningham, when she fell pregnant again. Having moved in with her manager, she still saw Dennis Edwards for sex.
Carolyn added, “She was afraid she wasn’t good enough as a singer, pretty enough as a woman, or devoted enough as a mother. I don’t know what to call it but deep, deep insecurity. Her style was to either drink away the anxiety or, when that stopped working, disappear for a while, find her bearings, and go right back onstage and wear the crown of the impervious diva.”
While the new book reveals a checkered but fascinating review of the secret personal life of Aretha Franklin, it is disturbing in parts as one begins to understand the trials and tribulations the Queen of Soul overcame in her life, against all odds.