Aretha Franklin Was Sued Repeatedly Not Paying Her Bills

Aretha Franklin was a legend and will always be known as the Queen of Soul. However, the singer was also known for not paying her bills, and she was sued several times because of it.

Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin | Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Aretha Franklin was worth $80 million when she died

Franklin died in August 2018 after a battle with cancer. However, her legacy stretched back decades. She had 112 Billboard-charting singles, including 73 songs on the Hot 100. Franklin began her career when she was just 12, traveling with her father, well-known minister and Civil Rights activist C.L. Franklin.

By the time the soul singer was 18, she had moved to New York City full time. She began making iconic ballads like “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody,” “Respect,” “Chain of Fools,” “Think,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” and “I Say a Little Prayer.” 

By the 1960s, Franklin was a legend, having won countless accolades and having sung at no less than three Presidential inaugurations. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Franklin was worth an astounding $80 million at the time of her death.

Aretha Franklin carried her purse everywhere

Franklin grew up in an era where Black entertainers and women, in particular, were short-changed by promoters or not paid for their performances at all. Early on in her career, Franklin began carrying her purse everywhere she went, even when she went on stage.

Having her handbag in her clutches at all times was a way of ensuring her financial security.

Former TV host Tavis Smiley once said via Mental Floss, “It’s the era she grew up in. She saw so many people, like Ray Charles and B. B. King, get ripped off … and she won’t have it. You are not going to disrespect her.”

RELATED: Aretha Franklin Refused to Perform With Air Conditioning On

Aretha Franklin was sued for not pay her bills

Though Franklin was flushed with cash and made sure she was always paid for her work, she didn’t always extend the same courtesy to others. Over the years, local merchants from Detroit, where Franklin had her home base claimed that the Queen of Soul never paid her bills. This included everyone from florists to limo drivers.

The debts ranged from hundreds to thousands of dollars, which was puzzling since the singer clearly had the funds. From 1988 moving forward, Franklin garnered more than 30 lawsuits against her.

“I think it was the type of thing where [Franklin and her lawyers] felt if they prolonged it long enough, we would forget about them,” Dean Pitcairn, whose Hilton Limousine service won a $1,500 settlemt from Franklin told the Detroit Free Press. “It just made me mad because everyone thinks she’s a big hero, and she doesn’t think twice about stepping on little people.”

David Greenbaum, Franklin’s accountant until 1992, sued her for $7,000, saying, “She was above all the mundane activity of paying bills.” For her part, the late singer always dismissed the lawsuits.

“Due to my travel and performance schedule and lack of a secretary in place during that period of time, that small fraction of people, less than 0.1 percent of the people with whom I do business, who were not paid, utilized their option to sue. This is not uncommon,” she said in a 1999 statement via E! News. “Celebrities are sued every day for a number of reasons.”