Aretha Franklin was tracked by the FBI for 40 years

Gabriella Ferlita

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Aretha Franklin was tracked by the FBI for 40 years

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Aretha Franklin has widely been regarded as the 'Queen of Soul' for her work in the music industry as a singer, songwriter and pianist.

It has recently been revealed that the music legend, known for songs like ‘Respect’ and ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’, was followed for 40 years by the FBI, after false concerns around ‘black extremism', ‘pro-communism’ and ‘radicalism’ were raised.

According to documents recently obtained by Rolling Stone, between 1967 and 2007, the Federal Bureau of Investigation collected evidence around the singer using ‘false phone calls, surveillance, infiltration, and highly-placed sources'.

Her FBI records, which were originally requested under the Freedom of Information Act on 17 August 2018, span over 270 pages and all suggest apprehension around Franklin, her career and the other activists and performers she befriended over the years.

Aretha Franklin was followed for 40 years by the FBI. Credit: MediaPunch Inc / Alamy Stock Photo
Aretha Franklin was followed for 40 years by the FBI. Credit: MediaPunch Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

The publication explained how many of the documents were ‘heavily redacted’ and could suggest the retention of other documents that have not been seized for public knowledge. 

Born in 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee, among her successful career as a singer, her family were heavily involved in civil rights activism, which Franklin also pursued.

Franklin was associated with Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis and other social justice members of interest – which was an area of interest for the FBI – who tracked her places of residence, phone numbers and movements, according to the publication.

As well as notices of the surveillance around the singer and activist, the obtained documents also detail letters and reports of death threats that Franklin received over the course of her career.

One letter sent to the star in 1974 read: “Dear Aretha…I’m still in charge of you…I’m not to be crossed…you should be…paying me some of my money…evidently your advisors do not know the dangers of neglecting what I’m saying…I would hate to drag [your father] into this.” 

The legend was tracked following false concerns around ‘black extremism,’ ‘pro-communism’ and ‘radicalism’. Credit: colaimages / Alamy Stock Photo
The legend was tracked following false concerns around ‘black extremism,’ ‘pro-communism’ and ‘radicalism’. Credit: colaimages / Alamy Stock Photo

Another threatening piece of post that Franklin received just four months after her father was shot in 1979, outlined that a man was going to murder her and her family.

Other files obtained by the publication show an extortion attempt against the singer, but information surrounding the suspects who committed these threats against her were redacted from the files.

One concerning document dated to 1969 discussed funeral plans for Martin Luther King Jr., and was dubbed a ‘racial situation’, which further described “Sammy Davis Jr., Aretha Franklin…of this group, some have supported militant Black power concept…[performance at MLK memorial by these prominent entertainers] would provide [an] emotional spark which could ignite racial disturbance in this area.”

Despite many documents having surfaced relating to Franklin’s interest on behalf on the FBI, her son Kecalf Franklin told Rolling Stone he was wasn't sure whether she knew about any of this.

He said: “I’m not really sure if my mother was aware that she was being targeted by the FBI and followed. 

“I do know that she had absolutely nothing to hide though.”

UNILAD has contacted a representative of the FBI for a comment.

Topics: Music, Crime, US News

Gabriella Ferlita
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