Aretha Franklin and Martin Luther King Jr.’s relationship: What to know

During the 1950s and 1960s, civil rights movements that fought for equal rights under the law in the United States of America were at their peak. And Martin Luther King Jr. was at the centre of it all. History has recognized him as one of the most prominent leaders in the civil rights movement, considering his massive impact. Aretha Franklin, one of the best singers of all time, was also embroiled in the civil rights movement, in which Martin Luther King was a figurehead. She is regarded as the “unsung hero” of the civil rights era. So, did Aretha Franklin and Martin Luther King Jr. know each other?

Martin Luther King Jr. and Aretha Franklin have been mentioned together in various instances. The outspoken civil rights leader and the Queen of Soul music’s relationship appear to have been overshadowed by the massive changes during the 1960s and the turmoil of black history.

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Even though their professions hardly intertwine, history states they crossed paths often and likely had a good connection. So, are the stories true? Did Aretha Franklin work with Martin Luther King?

Aretha Franklin and Martin Luther King Jr. met when she was young

Aretha Franklin was destined to meet the legendary civil rights movement leader, Martin Luther King. The songstress was born in 1942 in Memphis and was raised in Detroit. Growing up, Aretha was surrounded by avid supporters of the civil rights movement, including his father, CL Franklin.

Aretha’s father was a Baptist minister and circuit preacher. Therefore, Aretha spent most of her time in church, interacting with the congregation, who were primarily people supporting the civil rights movement.

Aretha’s father’s influence in the community and the rest of America grew gradually, making him famous. As a result, he started interacting with other influential people like Sam Cooke and Martin Luther King Jr.

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Martin Luther King would visit CL Franklin’s home, meeting Aretha Franklin. When Aretha Franklin was 16, she went on tour with Martin Luther King. She travelled with Martin Luther King Jr., singing in his church choir, and became a massive supporter of the civil rights leader from a young age.

Aretha Franklin influenced many of Martin Luther King’s movements

There is no doubt that Martin Luther King is self-made, but many people surrounded him during the civil rights era that helped him achieve numerous things. And interestingly, Aretha Franklin was one of them, though indirectly.

Historical records show that the renowned artist, who passed away in 2018, took care of payroll several times. Jesse Jackson revealed this little-known fact about Aretha during an interview.

When Dr King was alive, several times she helped us make payroll. On one occasion, we took an 11-city tour with her as Aretha Franklin and Harry Belafonte … and they put gas in the vans. She did 11 concerts for free and hosted us at her home, and did a fundraiser for my campaign. Aretha has always been a very socially conscious artist, an inspiration, not just an entertainer.

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She also did around 11 concerts for free for Martin Luther King Jr. Aretha also hosted many of the activities at her home and even raised funds for the campaign of Jesse Jackson.

Reverend Jim Holley of the Little Rock Baptist Church also praised Aretha for her generous support. He stated:

Whenever there was a tragedy with families, any civil rights family, she was always giving. I wish I had the words to express it. She’s exceptional in that she sang the blues but never lost her roots in the church and her relationship with God. She used her talent and what God gave her to move the race forward basically….She used a lot of her resources. She was that kind of person, a giving person.

Aretha received an award from MLK before he passed away

Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Aretha Franklin have passed on, but their legacies in their respective fields live on. One of the most noteworthy instances that shows the fantastic relationship between MLK and Aretha was during a homecoming concert in Detroit.

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Aretha performed in front of 12,000 people, and Martin Luther King and other prominent guests were in attendance. The civil rights movement leader gave Aretha a special Southern Christian Leadership award. On top of that, that day, February 16, was named Aretha Franklin Day.

Aretha Franklin sang at Martin Luther King’s memorial

Since it appeared Aretha was MLK’s favourite singer, she performed at his memorial. And she sang one of the civil rights activist’s favourite songs, Precious Lord, Take My Hand. According to eyewitnesses, the song’s title was the last words said on the balcony before his assassination.

Aretha had a good relationship with MLK’s family

Aretha Franklin worked tirelessly with Martin Luther King’s family to keep his memory alive and uphold his legacy. She was reportedly present for the family numerous times and had a profound relationship with MLK’s widowed wife, Coretta Scott. Aretha even helped in establishing the King Holiday.

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After Aretha passed away in 2018, Martin Luther King’s son described her as a legend from the civil rights era. He explained how Aretha was the soundtrack to “freedom” and supported civil rights movements.

Did Aretha and Martin Luther King have a relationship?

Aretha Franklin and Martin Luther King Jr. were not in a love relationship but knew each other well. She was an avid supporter of the civil rights movement, which Martin Luther King was a big part of and even sang multiple times for them. Their relationship was so great that Aretha sang during MLK’s memorial.

Did Aretha Franklin sing at Martin Luther King Jr’s funeral?

Although Aretha Franklin was
close to Martin Luther King and his family, she did not sing at his funeral. Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, renowned as the Queen of Gospel and MLK’s confidante, was given the honour. She performed Martin Luther King’s favourite tune, Take My Hand, Precious Lord.

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Aretha Franklin would later perform at Martin Luther King Jr.’s in August (while she was 26 years old) in front of a still-mourning widow and her four children during a memorial service at a Memphis church.

Is Aretha franklin related to Martin Luther King Jr.?

Aretha and Martin Luther King were not related and only knew each other because of their similar interests. Martin Luther King liked and enjoyed Aretha’s songs.

Aretha Franklin and Martin Luther King Jr. had a fantastic relationship during the 1960s when civil rights movements were at their peak. The unique relationship became more evident after Martin’s passing as Aretha was actively involved in the civil rights activist’s affairs.

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