Aretha Franklin Left no Will, Leaving Her Legacy in Limbo
When the legendary Aretha Franklin passed away two weeks ago at age 76, she reportedly left no will or trust.
That’s kind of a big deal, because it means her estate — and any planned releases — could be caught up in probate court for the foreseeable future. The Detroit Free Press last week reported that Franklin’s four sons have filed in Michigan’s Oakland County Probate Court as interested parties in her estate.
USA Today reported that Franklin’s real estate holdings alone make her a multimillionaire, but gauging her overall net worth is much more difficult. She did, however, own several of her master recordings and ran her own publishing companies — a fact experts suggest could make her estate very, very valuable.
Jeff Jampol, whose company Jampol Artist Management handles the estates of clients like Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Otis Redding, recently told Billboard he estimates Franklin’s estate could be worth $1 billion, over time — if managed properly.
Jampol says the key to carrying the Queen of Soul’s legacy forward is to find a way to build meaningful connections with younger fans.
“You figure out what that magic is and what Aretha means and stands for and you carve credible bridges to 11-to-40 year olds,” Jampol told Billboard. “Pat Boone had a lot more gold records and hit singles than Jim Morrison ever did, so why are 12-year olds not discovering Pat Boone instead of Jim Morrison? It’s not just about the music.”
Under the right management, Aretha’s legacy could easily thrive — much like Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson’s have — he argues.
In other words, the way an artist’s estate is managed can have a real impact on his or her legacy.
I’d also like to point out that the Queen of Soul already has the appropriate moniker to feed and fuel a legacy of musical royalty — much like the King of Rock, the King of Pop and, well, the Lizard King.
Speaking of the King of Pop’s estate, one could make the argument that its management has not been without its bumps along the way. After MJ died in 2009, Sony Records announced a 10-album deal with the Jackson estate and its imprint, Epic Records. In the nine years since, only two posthumous albums have been released — 2010’s “Michael” and 2014’s “Xscape.”
Just last week, Sony was in court for a hearing in a lawsuit a fan filed in 2014, claiming that the vocals on three songs from “Michael” contained lead vocals from someone other than Michael Jackson. That lawsuit remains unresolved, and Sony adamantly denies that Jackson did not sing on the songs in question.
To my knowledge, no future posthumous Michael Jackson albums have yet been announced.
For those interested, a memorial service honoring Franklin is planned for Friday, Aug. 31, in her native Detroit. So far, 19 different performers — including Stevie Wonder, Ronald Isley, Faith Hill, Jennifer Hudson and Chaka Khan — have been confirmed. Former President Bill Clinton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Smokey Robinson are scheduled to speak at the funeral. A tribute show is scheduled to take place the night before, featuring Gladys Knight, The Four Tops, Johnny Gill, Raheem DeVaughn and more.
Looking forward, I hope that Aretha’s estate is managed in a way that will focus on connecting and resonating with younger audiences. It is the legacy she deserves.
— Originally Published in the Las Cruces Sun-News, 08/30/18