Barbara Siggers Franklin: The Pioneering Influence Behind Aretha Franklin’s Success

Barbara Siggers Franklin, mother of the legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin, was a pivotal figure in nurturing her daughter’s extraordinary talent. Although her life was cut short at a young age, her profound impact on Aretha’s career is undeniable.

Today, however, we will talk about how did Aretha Franklin’s mother died.

Early Life and Musical Talent

Born on June 29, 1917, Barbara Siggers Franklin came to be known as a gifted gospel singer and pianist. Her talent was recognized by many, including renowned singer Mahalia Jackson, who hailed her as one of the finest gospel singers in the country.

Barbara’s musical prowess was not limited to her singing ability. She was also a proficient pianist, which contributed to her unique standing in the gospel music community.

A Nurturing Mother and Wife

Barbara’s life took a significant turn when she married Clarence LaVaughn Franklin in 1936. The couple had four children together: Erma (1938–2002), Cecil (1940–1989), Aretha (1942–2018), and Carolyn Franklin (1944–1988). Barbara also had a son, Vaughn (1934-2002), from a previous relationship, whom C L Franklin adopted.

Despite her musical talent, Barbara prioritized her roles as a wife and mother. However, she remained active in the musical scene, especially in the churches where her husband served as a pastor.

Barbara was married to Clarence LaVaughn Franklin, an American Baptist minister and civil rights activist. Rev C L Franklin was known as the man with the million-dollar voice, serving as the pastor of the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit from 1946 until he was shot and wounded in 1979.

Turbulent Marriage and A New Beginning

Unfortunately, Barbara’s marriage was marred by unfaithfulness from her husband. It came to light that Rev CL Franklin had fathered a daughter, Carol Ellan Kelley, with 12-year-old congregant Mildred Jennings in 1940.

Unable to bear the turmoil, Barbara left her husband in 1948 and moved to Buffalo, New York. Despite the separation, Ms Franklin and C.L. Franklin never officially divorced.

In Buffalo, Barbara found new avenues to express her musical talents. She began working in a music store, giving private music lessons, and training to be a nurse’s aide.

Disproving Rumors of Abandonment

Over the years, rumors spread that Barbara Franklin had abandoned her children. However, these allegations were refuted by American singer Aretha Franklin herself and Professor Nick Salvatore of Cornell University in his biography of C.L. Franklin.

According to Salvatore, Barbara made regular visits to Detroit to see her children, who also traveled to Buffalo for summer holidays. This evidence dispelled the rumors and showed Barbara’s continued involvement in her children’s lives.

Tragic Demise

Barbara Franklin’s life was tragically cut short when she suffered a heart attack on March 7, 1952, at the young age of 34. Her death came as a significant blow to her young children, especially nine-year-old Aretha.

Lasting Influence on Aretha Franklin

Despite her untimely death, Barbara’s enduring influence on her daughter’s musical journey is unmistakable. Aretha, who went on to become a legendary soul singer, often credited her mother for encouraging her musical talents.

In the biopic ‘Respect’, portraying Aretha Franklin’s life and career, actress Audra McDonald beautifully embodies the singer’s mother, Barbara, bringing her essence to life on the big screen.


Even though her life was short-lived, Barbara Siggers Franklin left a lasting legacy through her children, especially Aretha, who carried on her mother’s musical talent to international recognition. Today, Barbara is remembered as more than just American singer Aretha Franklin’s mother; she is acknowledged for her own musical abilities and her role in shaping the Queen of Soul.


The question of how did Aretha Franklin’s mother died is a tale of untimely loss, but it also tells of a woman whose life, though short-lived, had a profound impact on music history. Through her daughter, Barbara Siggers Franklin’s legacy continues to live on, reminding us of the indomitable spirit of a mother, a musician, and an inspiration.



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