Aretha Franklin’s Children: After Getting Pregnant At Age 12, Singer Had Complicated Relationships With Family

The singer had troubled relationships with men and with her four children.

Aretha Franklin had complicated relationships with her family.
Matt Rourke / AP Images

The singer had troubled relationships with men and with her four children.

Aretha Franklin was known as the “Queen of Soul,” and the raw emotion of her music may have come from the difficult relationships the singer had with family and especially her own children, the first of whom was born when she was just 12 years old.

The singer died this week at the age of 76, and her passing has brought attention to her brilliant career and many accomplishments. But it has also cast a light on the struggles of her personal life, including the often difficult relationships she had with close family members. As the Metro noted, Aretha’s father was a gospel preacher notorious for his womanizing, with rumors that he even held orgies at his church in Detroit.

When Aretha became pregnant at age 12, there were rumors that her father was the baby’s dad, the report noted, but it was actually a classmate named Donald Burk. Aretha would have her second child just two years later with another boy, but she was still able to focus on her singing career as her grandmother and sister took care of the two children that allowed her to practice and perform.

Aretha Franklin’s unmatched voice made an impression, and she landed a record deal at age 19. She would give birth to two more children — four in all with four different men — but the success of her career didn’t translate to her personal life. As InStyle noted, Aretha had a “complicated family history” that included unstable relationships with men and her own children.

But despite the troubles, Aretha Franklin remained close to her children and other family members, who were by her side as she died this week after a battle with pancreatic cancer. After her death on Thursday, they released a statement about the pain they felt with her passing.

“We are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our hearts,” family members said in a statement released Thursday (via the New York Post). “We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family.”

“We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world,” they added. “Thank you for your compassion and prayers. We have felt the love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on.”

Family members are now making arrangements for Aretha Franklin’s funeral.