How Did Aretha Franklin Die? Her Brave Battle with Cancer

how did aretha franklin die
Aretha Franklin performs during "The Gospel Tradition: In Performance at the White House" in the East Room of the White House, April 14, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza). Image on Wikimedia Commons.

Last updated on June 17th, 2023 at 06:18 pm

Singer Aretha Franklin will forever be the Queen of Soul and the artist who defined the golden age of soul music, topping the list of the greatest soul singers in the world.

Known for her powerhouse vocals, the “Natural Woman” singer was beloved by millions of fans worldwide. When she finally lost her battle with cancer, thousands gathered, mourning the beloved superstar.

How did Aretha Franklin die? Find out below.

How Did Aretha Franklin Die?

Soul singer Aretha Franklin died of advanced pancreatic cancer.

The rare disease is often detected late and has a low survival rate since patients don’t usually exhibit symptoms early on. Therefore, by the time it’s caught, it’s often already spread to other organs in the body.

when did aretha franklin die
Picture of Aretha Franklin performing at the Nokia Theater in Dallas, Texas, on April 21, 2007. Photo taken by Ryan Arrowsmith on Wikimedia Commons.

When Did Aretha Franklin Die?

Aretha Franklin passed away on August 16, 2018, in Detroit.

How Old Was Aretha Franklin When She Died?

Aretha Franklin was 76 years old when she died.

She was first diagnosed with the rare form of pancreatic cancer at 68.

What is the Survival Rate for Pancreatic Cancer?

One of the most aggressive and hard-to-treat forms of cancer, only about 11 percent of pancreatic cancer patients are expected to survive more than five years after their diagnosis.

Related: Jimi Hendrix’s Death: A Tale of the Lost Guitar Legend 

How Long Did Aretha Franklin Live After Cancer Diagnosis?

Aretha Franklin defied the odds.

Unlike most patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Aretha Franklin proved her grace and determination as she fought her battle for nearly eight years.

She was first diagnosed with the disease in 2010.

How Long was Aretha Franklin’s Funeral?

Aretha Franklin’s funeral was a multi-day event, lasting four days. 

It included the opportunity for the Queen of Soul’s fans to come and pay their respects as her body lay at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

It ended with a memorial service with Franklin’s family, friends, and loved ones on August 19, 2018, at New Bethel Baptist Church, which lasted eight hours.

Several artists paid tribute to Franklin throughout. Featured performances included those of Ariana Grande, Faith Hill, Jennifer Hudson, and Queen Latifah, among others.

Related: 28 Interesting Facts About Ariana Grande

Did Aretha Change Clothes During the Funeral?

Mourners saw several outfits don the singer throughout the four-day event.

The first outfit was a bright crimson dress paired with her Louboutin heels. Other outfits included more gowns with various color palettes.

Her niece, Sabrina Owens, commented on the wardrobe changes. She said in a statement: “It just happened. It was just something that we didn’t think about.” 

Planned or not, it fit the personality of the regal singer, that’s for sure.

aretha franklin death
Publicity photo of Aretha Franklin from Billboard, 17 February 1968. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Is Aretha Franklin Buried with Her Father?

Following her funeral, Aretha Franklin was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit, Michigan. She was laid to rest alongside her father and her sisters.

Woodlawn Cemetery is also the resting place of Rosa Parks, whose funeral Franklin performed at, singing a soulful ballad.

Who Gave the Eulogy at Aretha Franklin’s Funeral?

At Aretha Franklin’s request, Reverend Jasper Williams Jr. of Salem Baptist Church in Atlanta provided the eulogy at the funeral. 

Franklin reportedly chose him because he gave the eulogy at her father’s funeral and the memorials of other family members.

Unfortunately, Williams’ eulogy received much backlash, with many calling it a “political address” and Franklin’s nephew even complaining that Williams “spoke for 50 minutes and at no time did he properly eulogize her.”

Did Aretha Franklin Have a Gold Casket?

What kind of casket did Aretha Franklin have? Her casket was made of 24-karat plated gold. 

The lining of the coffin was embroidered in gold thread with the words: “Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul.”

The funeral director, O’Neil Swanson II, told CNN: “God didn’t make a better singer, and there isn’t a better casket. She deserves the very best.”

Related: 41 Interesting Facts About Madonna 

What Does a Pink Casket Mean?

With a hint of pink in the champaign velvet interior of Aretha Franklin’s casket, we think it’s a nod to the sweet, sentimental person she was known to be and loved for by her many fans.

How Much is a Casket Worth?

Aretha Franklin’s casket is worth a whopping $40,000. With the solid bronze and 24-karat golden plate on top of it, we’re certainly not surprised.

It’s a hefty price tag compared to the average casket, which costs a little over $2,000.

How Much was Aretha Franklin Worth at the Time of Her Death?

When Aretha Franklin died, she was worth approximately $80-85 million. This amount was thanks to her continued income from music, licensing, and royalties.

aretha franklin cancer
Aretha Franklin watching Roger Federer at the 2011 US Open. Image by Boss Tweed on Wikimedia Commons.

Who Inherited Aretha Franklin’s Estate?

What happened to Aretha Franklin’s money when she died? Her estate was inherited by her four sons – Ted White Jr., Edward Franklin, Kecalf Cunningham, and Clarence Franklin.

Because she wasn’t married at the time, the even split of her multi-million-dollar estate amongst her children was required by Michigan state law.

Her four sons also are the ones who get Aretha Franklin’s royalties.

The four handwritten wills found after Franklin’s death support that this was, in fact, the legendary singer’s wish for her estate.

How Much Did Aretha Franklin Owe in Back Taxes?

That $80 million wasn’t the total amount her four sons inherited from their mother’s estate. 

At her death, Aretha Franklin owed the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) a long-standing debt of $7.8 million.

As of July 2022, court documents state that the debt has been paid in full.

Aretha Franklin Early Life

Aretha Franklin was born on March 25, 1942, at her family home at 406 Lucy Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee.

She is the daughter of Barbara (Siggers) Franklin, an accomplished singer and piano player, and Clarence LaVaughn “C.L.” Franklin, a missionary Baptist minister and circuit preacher.

She has three siblings and several half-siblings from her parent’s prior relationships.

How Did Aretha Franklin’s Dad Get His Money?

Aretha Franklin’s dad was a popular preacher known for his “highly-charged sermons.” 

He earned thousands of dollars as he traveled to churches nationwide to deliver his sermons.

To so many, he was known as the man with the “million-dollar voice.”

Did Aretha Franklin Have a Baby by Her Father?


Aretha Franklin named her first child Clarence in honor of her father, but he was not his father.

What Did Aretha Franklin Do to Her Sister?

Aretha Franklin’s sister Carolyn Franklin is often forgotten in the musical world. 

Although she was a prominent singer and songwriter in her own right, she was never quite able to bring herself out of Aretha’s shadow.

Carolyn and their other sister Erma Franklin, another professional musician, provided background vocals for their sister’s records for many years.

Related: The Best Rock Songs of All Time: The Ultimate Top 40 

aretha franklin sister
The Queen of Soul, Irma Thomas and the Professionals, at the Roosevelt Hotel, New Orleans. Image by Marie Carianna on Wikimedia Commons.

Aretha Franklin Children

Aretha Franklin has four children. Her oldest son Clarence Franklin was born on January 28, 1955. Her second son, Edward Derone Franklin, was born on August 31, 1957.

Edward Jordan fathered both sons.

Franklin’s third son, Ted White Jr., from her first marriage, was born in February 1964. Professionally, he goes by the name Teddy Richards.

Franklin’s youngest son, Kecalf Cunningham, was born in April 1970. He was fathered by Franklin’s road manager Ken Cunningham.  

Does Aretha Franklin Have a Disabled Son?

Reportedly, Aretha Franklin’s oldest son, Clarence, has special needs, but the details are unknown. 

According to TMZ, he requires “financial and other forms of support.”

How Old Was Aretha Franklin When She Had Her First Child?

Aretha Franklin fell pregnant for the first time at the tender age of 12 and gave birth to her first son just a couple of months shy of her 13th birthday.

How Old Was Aretha When She Had Her Second Child?

Aretha was still a baby when she had her second baby at 14. Can you imagine being a mom of two boys under two before you even turn 15? We sure can’t.

How Many Times Did Aretha Franklin Marry?

Aretha Franklin has been married twice.

Her first marriage was to Ted White, her former manager. The two were married in 1961 and divorced in 1969. The marriage reportedly was strained and was tainted by domestic abuse.

She married Glynn Turman, whom she met at her father’s church, in 1978. The couple separated four years later in 1982 and finalized their divorce in 1984.

Did Aretha Franklin Have a Baby by Glynn Turman?

Aretha Franklin never had any children with her second husband, Glynn Turman; however, during their marriage, she was stepmother to Turman’s three children.

Who Did Aretha Franklin Have Children With?

Aretha Franklin had four children by three different men.

Franklin’s oldest children, Clarence and Edward, were fathered by her friend Edward Jordan when the singer was 12 and 14, respectively. It was unknown for years that Jordan fathered Clarence, as it was previously reported that the child belonged to a boy named Donald Burk.

It was only upon examining Franklin’s handwritten wills that the truth was revealed.  

aretha franklin
Trade ad for Aretha Franklin’s single “Baby I Love You”. Image by Atlantic Records on Wikimedia Commons.

How Old was Edward Jordan When He Had a Child with Aretha Franklin?

It is unknown how old Edward Jordan was at the time of the birth of either of his children with Aretha Franklin.

Aretha Franklin’s Legacy

Aretha Franklin has received several honors throughout her music career, including being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (for which she made history as the first woman to be inducted), the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.

She has been significantly honored twice by the Grammys, first with the Grammy Legend Award in 1991 and then with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994.

She’s also received many honorary degrees in music.

Despite these massive musical accolades, Aretha Franklin is not just remembered as being the Queen of Soul. She has also left a legacy as the queen with a big heart, becoming a civil rights activist following in the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr.

Throughout her career, she used her mega-platform to fight for the civil rights movement and women’s rights. 

When she started making her millions, she often donated to civil rights groups and performed at their benefits and protests. She was also a supporter of the rights of Native Americans.

On November 9, 2005, she was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, by former President George W. Bush at the White House.

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Written by Katie Peterson

Katie Peterson received her bachelor's degree in English from the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth in 2015. She has worked in journalism since 2015, beginning as production assistant and eventual head staff writer of the Fort Leavenworth Lamp newspaper in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Currently, she is a multimedia journalist with the Diocese of Nashville's Office of Media and Evangelization where she writes, does photography, and edits for several types of content, including the Tennessee Register, Catholic Awakenings, and She has also worked as a freelance journalist with the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas's newspaper, The Leaven, since 2016.
In her spare time, Peterson enjoys reading, spending time with her pup, Sadie Lynn, singing and songwriting.


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