Edward Jordan Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, was a legendary singer who had a remarkable career and a tumultuous personal life. She gave birth to four sons, but the identity of the father of her first two children remained a mystery for a long time. Who was Edward Jordan, the man who fathered Clarence and Edward Franklin?
A Teenage Mother
Edward Jordan Aretha Franklin was born in 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee, to a preacher father and a gospel singer mother. She grew up in a musical and religious environment, but also faced some hardships and traumas. Her mother left the family when she was six and died four years later. Her father was a charismatic but controversial figure who had affairs with several women and hosted wild parties at their home.
Franklin showed an early talent for singing and piano, and started performing at her father’s church and on his gospel tours. She also became a teenage mother, giving birth to her first son, Clarence, in 1955, just two months before her 13th birthday. Two years later, she had another son, Edward, at age 14.
A Player and a Predator: Edward Jordan Aretha Franklin
- Franklin never revealed the identity of the father of her first two sons, and kept them under her last name. She initially claimed that the father was a schoolmate named Donald Burke, but later changed her story and named Edward Jordan Sr. as the father of both boys. Little is known about Jordan, except that he was described by Franklin as “just some player” whom she once knew.
- Some biographers and critics have suggested that Franklin was the victim of sexual abuse and statutory rape by Jordan, who was much older than her. In the movie “Respect”, which is based on Franklin’s life, there is a scene where a young Aretha is approached by an unnamed man who closes the door of her bedroom and says he will be her “boyfriend”. The movie implies that this man was Jordan, and that he impregnated Franklin against her will.
- However, there is no conclusive evidence to support this claim, and Edward Jordan Aretha Franklin herself never confirmed or denied it. She was very private about her personal life, and rarely discussed her first two pregnancies. She also did not seek any financial support or legal action against Jordan, and did not allow him to have any role in her sons’ lives.
A Loving Mother
- Franklin’s early motherhood did not stop her from pursuing her musical career, which took off in the late 1960s with hits like “Respect”, “Chain of Fools”, and “Think”. She became a superstar and a symbol of soul, feminism, and civil rights. She also had two more sons, Teddy Richards and Kecalf Cunningham, from different relationships.
- Franklin raised her four sons with the help of her grandmother, Rachel, and her sister, Erma, who took care of them while she was on tour. She was very protective and supportive of her children, and encouraged them to follow their own passions. Clarence and Edward both became musicians, and performed with their mother on several occasions. Teddy became a guitarist and a music producer, and Kecalf became a rapper and a preacher.
Edward Jordan Aretha Franklin died
In 2018 at the age of 76, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. She left behind a legacy of music, activism, and love. She also left behind a family feud over her estate, which was complicated by the discovery of four handwritten wills in her home. In one of the wills, she stated that Clarence had special needs and required special provisions, and that Edward Jordan Sr. should have no claim to any stake in her estate.
Edward Jordan Sr. remains a shadowy figure in Franklin’s life, and the truth about his relationship with her may never be fully known. What is clear, however, is that Franklin was a devoted mother who overcame many challenges and achieved greatness. She was, and still is, the Queen of Soul.