Musical icon Aretha Franklin's passing in 2018 left enormous shoes to fill in the industry, but she also left behind four children. Amid reports of a dispute among her children following the singer's death, many fans are wondering more about her kids, including whether any still perform music today.
Read on for everything we know about Aretha Franklin's children.
Between 1955 and 1970, Aretha Franklin had four kids.
Aretha's journey to motherhood wasn't always easy, and Oprah Daily reports that several Aretha Franklin biographies confirm her first child was born in 1995, just before she turned 13. Her oldest son, Clarence, was named after her father, C.L. Franklin, who was a pastor. The father of her first son was rumored to be a classmate, Donald Burk.
Her second son, named Edward "Eddie" after his father, was born to another local friend, Edward Jordan Sr. NBC News reported that after the "Respect" singer's death, her family uncovered three handwritten wills in her home (more on those wills later), one of which named Edward Jordan Sr. as the father of Clarence as well.
However, due to his absence from his sons' lives, one of the wills came with strict instructions that none of the money or property belonging to Clarence should ever go to Edward Sr. Eddie was born when Aretha was only 14 years old, and shortly before she left school to pursue music full time. Her debut album, Aretha: With The Ray Bryant Combo, was released the next year.
While Aretha was pursuing music, her grandmother Rachel and sister Erma took care of her children. At age 19, Aretha settled down a little and married Ted White in 1964, and their son Ted White Jr. (known professionally as Teddy Richards) was born shortly after. Ted even became Aretha's manager for a time, but she divorced him in 1969 after raising domestic abuse allegations against him.
Aretha's youngest child, Kecalf Cunningham, was born in 1970, and he is the child of her road manager Ken Cunningham.
Regarding the aforementioned wills, Kecalf and Edward believed that one of the three handwritten wills found at Aretha's home — specifically a 2014 note found under a couch cushion — should replace an earlier 2010 will. However, Teddy wanted the 2010 will to stand as is because it was found under lock and key in their mom's home.
Per the AP, both wills seemingly allow her sons to share money from her music. But the 2014 note said that Kecalf and Aretha's grandchildren were entitled to inherit her main Michigan home, while the 2010 will said that Kecalf and Edward must acquire a business degree or certificate first before they were entitled to her estate. In July 2023, a judge ruled that the 2014 note was valid.
When asked about a feud, Kecalf said outside the court, “I love my brother with all my heart.”
Meanwhile, Ted's attorney said: “We were here to see what the jury would rule. We’ll live with it.”
Do any of Aretha's kids work in the music industry today?
In 2019, The New York Times reported Aretha's son Teddy played the guitar at her live shows for 25 years, Eddie sang gospel music, and Kecalf is an aspiring Christian rapper. Clarence also reportedly had a musical career, although the article did not say what genre.
Teddy is arguably the most successful musician in the family and has released several albums. In addition to his own music, Teddy has worked with the likes of Nellie Furtado, Joe Cocker, and Al Green.
Aretha's life and legacy are extraordinary, and it's no wonder why people are invested in learning about her personal life alongside her musical prowess.