The Aretha Franklin Movie – What ‘RESPECT’ Didn’t Tell You

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Honestly, the Aretha Franklin movie left a lot to be desired.  While Jennifer Hudson does do a stunning job portraying the singer and embodying the swagger and grace of the woman we came to know as the Queen of Soul, there was still so many holes in the timeline of her life and her legacy. The RESPECT movie runs for 2 hours and 25 minutes but somehow leaves so much of the singer’s life and story out.

We decided to help you fill in some of the gaps.  Here’s a look at much of what the RESPECT movie didn’t tell you.

Aretha’s mother

Barbara Siggers left her abusive husband C.L. Franklin after an abusive relation.  The couple had 4 children together, but Barbara left them behind. (we’ll get back to that later)  Though she never divorced her husband, she moved to Buffalo, NY in 1948, when Aretha was just 6 years old, and started another family, including a young son named Vaughn.

At just 34 years old, Barbara passed away from a heart attack in 1952.

Aretha’s father

C.L. Franklin
The Michigan Chronicle – Original publication: August, 1975

The movie makes it clear that Clarence LaVaughn Franklin was by all accounts a troubled man, who at the same time was very well connected.  But, it leaves quite a bit of known facts out.  C.L. had a child with a 12 year-old girl in 1940.  He was a well known womanizer and a was abusive to women around him and his children. He had two other children, with two other women while he was still with Barbara as well.

He had a wife before Barbara, but they divorced the same year he married Barbara.

Aretha’s siblings

Aretha had 3 siblings in the home growing up with her: Erma, Cecil, and Carolyn. While Cecil doesn’t really appear in the film as a child, he was born in March of 1940, 2 years before Aretha.  He would eventually take over his father’s church and he would act as Aretha’s manager.  (He’s the one booking her shows when she’s dealing with her alcoholism. My apologies if I’m the only one that missed that he was her brother)

Erma was the oldest, born in 1938 and Carolyn was the youngest, born in 1942.

Erma released 2 solo albums and Carolyn released five albums of her own.

Aretha would outlive all those siblings.

Vaughn Franklin (mentioned above) is still alive.

Aretha Franklin’s rape

The scene in the film provides very little detail and isn’t revisited.

This is tricky because there are various accounts of her being abused as a child and there has long been speculation that even her father might have raped her.  I don’t know if the film meant the scene to be a specific incident or meant more to highlight a history of such sexual exploitation. It’s also hard to determine when this happens in the film because it happens right after her mother has passed.  At that point, she was about 10 years old.

Aretha’s children

Aretha had a child at 12 years old and another at 14 years old.

There is a scene where her sisters asks her, “when are you going to tell us who the father of those kids are?” (paraphrasing)

Some speculate the first might have been by her dad, but her autobiography by David Rittz revealed it to be the child of her classmate named Donald Burk.  The son was named Clarence, after her father.

Her second child was by a man named Edward Jordan.

Both children end up living with her in the home and keeping the last name Franklin.

She had two more sons, one with husband Ted White, named Teddy White Jr., and one with her road manager, Ken Cunningham, named Kecalf Cunningham.

Ted White

Ted was 30 years old when he married Aretha Franklin.  She was 18 years old.

This relationship was the focus of the second half of the film because he did usher her into stardom, but he was out of her life by 1969.

Aretha Franklin remarried

Might be showing my age, but who knew Aretha remarried to actor, Glynn Russell Turman.  He starred in the movie Cooley High and in the show, ‘A Different World‘ among other things.  They were married for 6 years.

Aretha Franklin Live Performance 

The live performance from the end of the film comes from the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors, celebrating Carole King, who co-wrote “You Make Me Feel Like (A Natural Woman)”.

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