Aretha Franklin with her father,
Bishop C.L. Franklin (1915 – 1984), and her sister, fellow singer
(1938 – 2002) in New York, 1971.
C.L. Franklin served as the pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit from 1946 to 1979. The church was a commonplace for orgies which Ray Charles described as a “sex circus.” In 1940, while married to his daughter’s mother, Barbara Siggers, C.L. Franklin fathered a daughter named Carl Ellan Kelley (née Jennings) by Mildred Jennings, a 12-year-old girl in his New Salem Baptist Church congregation. Aretha also became pregnant at the age of just 12 in 1954. She gave birth to a baby boy she named Clarence Franklin, after her dad on January 28, 1955. Rumors swirled that her own father was the father of her first child but it was Donald Burk, a guy she knew from school. At the age of 14 on January 22, 1957, Aretha had a second child named Edward Franklin after his father Edward Jordan. In 1979, C.L. was shot during an attempted robbery. He remained in a coma until his death in 1984.
Erma, the oldest of C.L. Franklin’s six children died of throat cancer in 2002.
(Photos by Anthony Barboza)