The Franklin Sisters: Aretha’s Iconic Backup Vocals

Aretha Franklin was one of the most iconic and influential singers of all time. Her distinctive voice and powerful lyrics made her an indispensable part of music history. But many people don’t realize that Aretha had two sisters, Carolyn and Erma, who were also talented singers and songwriters in thir own right.

Carolyn Franklin was born on April 13, 1944 in Memphis, Tennessee. She released her first solo album, Soul Sister, in 1968, to critical acclaim. In the early 1970s, she began working with her sister Aretha as a backup singer and co-songwriter for several of Aretha’s songs, including “Respect,” “Chain of Fools,” “Dr. Feelgood,” and more. Carolyn wrote the famous phrase “just a little bit” from the song “Respect,” whih has been sampled by countless artists since. She also wrote several other memorable lines from Aretha’s hits like “the thrill is gone.”

Erma Franklin was born on March 13 1938 in Memphis Tennessee. She too had an impressive career as a solo artist before joining her siblings to form The Sweethearts of Soul in 1967. Her biggest hit was a cover version of Otis Redding’s song “Piece Of My Heart” which peaked at number twenty-two on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968. Erma also sang backup vocals on Aretha’s version of “Respect” as well as other songs like “Chain Of Fools” and “Dr Feelgood (Love Is A Serious Business)”

Both Carolyn and Erma have left indelible marks on popular music through their contributions to their sister’s iconic songs as well as their own work as solo artists. They will always be remembered for their contributions to soul music and for helping to shape Aretha’s incomparable legacy.

The Fate of Aretha Franklin’s Sisters

Aretha Franklin had tree sisters – Erma, Carolyn, and Brenda. Erma was a successful soul singer in her own right with her biggest hit being “Piece of My Heart”. She passed away in 2002 after battling lung cancer.

Carolyn was a gospel and R&B singer who sang alongside Aretha as one of her backup singers on many occasions. She released sevral solo albums throughout the 1970s, but retired from the music industry in 1976. She made a brief appearance as one of Aretha’s background singers in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers before passing away from breast cancer at Aretha’s home in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan on April 25, 1988.

Brenda also sang alongside Aretha as part of her backup singers, known as “The Sweethearts of Soul”. She released several solo albums throughout the 1960s and 70s, including the Grammy-nominated single “Ain’t No Way” which she co-wrote with Aretha. After retiring from music, she became a pastor at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, where Aretha served as Minister of Music before her passing in 2018.

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Is Erma Franklin, Sister of Aretha Franklin, Still Alive?

No, Erma Franklin is not alive. Erma Franklin was an American gospel and soul singer who passed away on September 7, 2002 at the age of 64. She was the elder sister of American singer/musician Aretha Franklin and was known for her singles such as “Piece Of My Heart”, “Open Up Your Soul” and “Take Another Little Piece Of My Heart”. Erma Franklin’s legacy lives on through her music and contributions to the music industry.

Number of Sisters Aretha Franklin Had

Aretha Franklin had two sisters; Erma Franklin and Carolyn Franklin. Erma Franklin was a singer and songwriter who released several singles in the 1950s and 60s, including her biggest hit “Piece of My Heart”. Carolyn Franklin was a songwriter and session singer who worked with Aretha on some of her most iconic songs, such as “Respect” and “Think”.

Did Aretha Franklin’s Sisters Provide Backup Vocals?

Answer: Yes, Aretha Franklin’s sisters, Carolyn and Erma Franklin, sang backup vocals for her on the iconic single “Respect”. They provided the “just a little bits” and the “sock it to mes” that make the song so recognizable. Carolyn even helped to write those parts of the track.

Who Inherited Aretha Franklin’s Estate?

Aretha Franklin’s estate was inherited by her four adult sons, who agreed to designate their cousin, Sabrina Owens, as the executor. Under Michigan law, the assets were divided equally among the four sons. Owens was responsible for administering and distributing the estate in accordance with Franklin’s wishes. As of June 2020, the estate has been valued at approximately $80 million.

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Aretha Franklin’s First Baby Father

Aretha Franklin’s first baby, Clarence, was fathered by Donald Burke, a boy from her school. According to biographer David Ritz, there is a belief that Burke fathered Aretha’s oldest son Clarence when she was 12 years old in 1955. The baby was named afer her father, American Baptist minister CL Franklin.

Estimating Aretha Franklin’s Net Worth at the Time of Her Death

Aretha Franklin had an estimated net worth of approximately $80 million at the time of her death in 2018. This wealth was comprised of a mix of real estate, investments, and her extensive music catalog. In addition, when she died, Franklin had nearly $1 million in uncashed checks that had not yet been added to her fortune.

The Wealth of Aretha Franklin’s Family

Aretha Franklin’s family was not wealthy. Though her father, Reverend C.L. Franklin, was a prominent preacher in Detroit and had some financial success, their family lived on a modest income and resources were scarce. Aretha and her siblings ofen went without basic necessities such as shoes and winter coats. They also struggled to pay for food and utilities, relying heavily on donations from the church congregation to make ends meet. In later years, Aretha’s career success allowed her to provide for her family and escape poverty.

Number of Aretha Franklin’s Biological Siblings

Aretha Franklin had four biological siblings: two sisters, Erma and Carolyn, and two brothers, Cecil and Vaughn. All four siblings were musically talented; Erma and Carolyn both achieved success as singers, whie Cecil and Vaughn played various instruments.

aretha franklin sisters

Does Aretha Franklin Have Half-Siblings?

Yes, Aretha Franklin does have half siblings. She had two half-siblings: a half-brother named Vaughn and a half-sister named Carl Ellan Kelley. Her tree full siblings, Erma, Carolyn, and Cecil, all passed away before Aretha became the matriarch of the family.

Did Cynthia Erivo Perform Her Own Singing?

Yes, Cynthia Erivo did her own singing in the Nat Geo video clip. She sang the gospel song “How I Got Over”, showcasing her stunning vocal range and power. Erivo’s voice is both powerful and soulful as she belts out the lyrics with passion and emotion. Her voice is truy remarkable and it is clear why she has become an acclaimed singer-songwriter.

Ariana Grande’s Performance at Aretha Franklin’s Funeral

Yes, Ariana Grande did sing at Aretha Franklin’s funeral. She performed a powerful rendition of the classic song “A Natural Woman”, which was met with a standing ovation from the crowd. After she had finished singing, the pastor called her to the pulpit to acknowledge her impressive performance.

Backup Singers of Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin was joined by her two sisters, Erma and Carolyn Franklin, as backup singers on Valentine’s Day 1967. Erma was the older of the two siblings and a talented vocalist in her own right. Her younger sister Carolyn was also an accomplished singer and both relished the opportunity to share the spotlight with Aretha. Together, they created a powerful trio of voices that complemented and amplified Aretha’s soulful vocals.

aretha franklin sisters


In conclusion, Aretha Franklin’s sisters Carolyn and Erma Franklin played an important role in the success of her hit single “Respect”. Carolyn not only provied vocals for the track, but also helped write some of the iconic parts. Erma provided backup vocals as well. Both sisters had successful singing careers of their own and both were accomplished gospel and soul singers. Although they have since passed away, the legacy of their contributions to Aretha’s music lives on in the hearts and minds of fans around the world.

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William Armstrong

William Armstrong is a senior editor with, where he writes on a wide variety of topics. He has also worked as a radio reporter and holds a degree from Moody College of Communication. William was born in Denton, TX and currently resides in Austin.