The Real Reason Aretha Franklin Insisted On Being Paid In Cash For Performances

Aretha Franklin was working on her biopic.
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Legendary singer Aretha Franklin reportedly insisted on being paid on cash for her performances, a quirk that was left over from her early days on the road at the beginning of her career.

The Queen of Soul, who earned 18 Grammy Awards over her six-decade career, died on August 16 at the age of 76. The singing legend passed from advanced pancreatic cancer.

Money Magazine reported that Franklin’s demands for cash up front were a holdover from when she was afraid she wouldn’t get paid by promoters after her performances back in the 1960s.

Franklin’s friend Tavis Smiley revealed in a story published by The New Yorker, as reported by Money, that her cash-only demand “stemmed from her observations of the music business during her early days when black singers were underpaid and often cheated out of royalties.”

“It’s the era she grew up in—she saw so many people, like Ray Charles and B. B. King, get ripped off,” Smiley told The New Yorker. “There is the sense in her very often that people are out to harm you. And she won’t have it. You are not going to disrespect her.”

The New Yorker‘s David Remnick reported that he was backstage with Franklin and noted what he called “stacks of cash near her hairbrush and mirror.”

Remnick later found out that Franklin’s rule for performing was “she collects on the spot or she does not sing.”

The Smoking Gun noted in 2010 that Franklin’s team requested promoters physically hand her $25,000 in cash. They could then write Franklin a check for the rest of her fee.

“It is understood that this money shall be presented by the promoter or the designated person, directly to Ms. Franklin,” the rider allegedly stated. “No one other than Ms. Franklin is to be given payment in any form on her behalf unless prior written authorization is received.”

aretha franklin's family will hold a public viewing before her funeral
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Money Magazine also reported that in the 2014 book Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin, talent agent Dick Alen revealed that she used the money delivered at her shows to pay her staff “off the books.”

“She deducted no taxes and made no records. I’d beg her to implement some system of documentation, but she refused,” he stated.

At the time of her death, Franklin had an estimated net worth of $60 million according to Money.

Former United States President Barack Obama, whom the vocalist sang for at his inauguration, said of Franklin’s influence on his life for the 2016 New Yorker story, “You can hear Aretha’s influence across the landscape of American music, no matter the genre. What other artist had that kind of impact? Dylan. Maybe Stevie, Ray Charles. The Beatles and the Stones—but, of course, they’re imports. The jazz giants like Armstrong. But it’s a short list. And if I’m stranded on a desert island, and have ten records to take, I know she’s in the collection.”