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How Many Children Did Aretha Franklin Have?

Newsweek logo Newsweek 8/13/2021 Eleanor Lees
Clive Davis, Aretha Franklin, Pauline Maier are posing for a picture: Aretha Franklin is kissed on the cheek by her youngest son, Kecalf Cunningham at her 72nd birthday party at the Ritz Carlton in New York © J. Countess/Getty Images Aretha Franklin is kissed on the cheek by her youngest son, Kecalf Cunningham at her 72nd birthday party at the Ritz Carlton in New York

Three years after her death from pancreatic cancer, a new movie Respect starring Jennifer Hudson explores Aretha Franklin's rise to fame and life away from the stage.

Particularly her relationships... and her children.

How Many Children Did Aretha Franklin Have?

Franklin had four children, Clarence Franklin, Edward Franklin, Ted White Jr. (known professionally as Teddy Richards) and Kecalf Cunningham.

The Queen of Soul largely avoided keeping her personal life out of the public, as have her sons.

Clarence Franklin

Franklin's oldest son, Clarence was born when she was 12 years old in 1955.

His father was believed to be Franklin's classmate, Donald Burke according to her biographer and author of Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin, David Ritz.

a group of people looking at each other: Mourners support Clarence Franklin (center) at his mother Aretha Franklin's funeral Bill Pugliano/Getty Images © Bill Pugliano/Getty Images Mourners support Clarence Franklin (center) at his mother Aretha Franklin's funeral Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

After her death, Franklin's family found handwritten wills in her home which instead stated that Clarence, 66, was the son of another of her classmates Edward Jordan Sr. The wills were not authenticated, according to NBC News.

She named him after her own father.

Edward Franklin

Born when Franklin was 14, Edward Franklin perhaps shares a father with his older brother Clarence.

Named after his father, Edward Jordan, 64, shared his mother's singing talents and has performed on multiple occasions including in duets with Franklin.


Video: How Jennifer Hudson Honors Aretha Franklin’s Final Wishes in 'Respect' (Exclusive) (ETonline)

How Jennifer Hudson Honors Aretha Franklin’s Final Wishes in 'Respect' (Exclusive)
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In 2015 he sang at his grandfather Rev. C.L. Franklin's funeral, performing his mother's favorite gospel song "His Eye is On the Sparrow."

According to a Detroit News report at the time, his rendition prompted a standing ovation, with many in attendance moved to tears.

Edward also performed at his mother's funeral, singing "Mercy Mercy Me" by Marvin Gaye.

Ted White Jr.

Ted is Franklin's son from her first marriage to Ted White.

White also worked for Franklin for some time as her musical manager before their marriage ended after seven years amid reports of domestic abuse.

Ted was largely raised by his father and went on to perform backing guitar for his mother for 30 years.

a person standing on a stage: Aretha Franklin performs at the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 2017 Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images © Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images Aretha Franklin performs at the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 2017 Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Under the stage name Teddy Richards, the 57-year-old has enjoyed his own success in the music industry, performing as the opening act for Seal, Lenny Kravitz and INXS.

He's also created his own solo work and plans to release his third album Solitaire in 2022.

Kecalf Cunningham

Franklin's youngest child, Kecalf Cunningham, was born in 1970.

The child of Franklin and another of her former managers Ken Cunningham, his name is a portmanteau of his father's first name and his mother's initials.

Kecalf, 51, tried to forge a career for himself as a Christian rapper and appeared on stage with his mother.

After previously stating that TV series centered on his mother's life Genius was "pushed through without the family's consent", he thanked makers of Respect, MGM, "for being extremely professional" in an Instagram post in July.

He wrote: "Jennifer Hudson did a phenomenal job as well as the rest of the cast.

"We truly thank you all for providing your GOD given talents to depict our mother/grandmothers' life story.

"Thank you all so much and GOD bless you. Our hope are that everyone will enjoy the film as much as we did!"

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