There is a long history of the FBI going after political figures, but there seemed to be extra attention paid to one particular musician.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation collected information on Aretha Franklin from 1967 to 2007. The FBI is said to have used surveillance techniques such as false phone calls, infiltration and well-placed sources to obtain 270 pages worth of intelligence on the Queen of Soul.
Now, her youngest son, Kecalf Franklin, 52, is opening up on his feelings about the federal government spying on his mother.
“I’m not really sure if my mother was aware that she was being targeted by the FBI and followed,” Kecalf revealed in a recent interview. “I do know that she had absolutely nothing to hide though.”
It seems the FBI was watching the “Respect” singer due to her involvement in civil rights activism. Her file, which is heavily redacted, is full of language such as “militant Black power,” “racial violence,” “Black extremists,” “pro-communist” and even “hate America.”
Some of the documentation also seemingly implied there are other federal documents with information on the surveillance of the singer, but they have not yet been released.
A document labeled “Possible Racial Violence” detailed a situation in 1968 that occurred among fans after Aretha cancelled a performance in Denver, Colorado. Upset fans were said to have broken chairs and also set fire to trees and nearby piles of trash.
“[The] disturbance began about 9 pm after Miss Franklin refused to perform because her fee, guaranteed by the promoter, was not forthcoming,” the files stated.
The documents also included several death threats that were made against Aretha. One letter from 1974 warned the “Ain’t No Way” songstress that they are “in charge” of her and threatened her family members.
“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,” the unsettling letter read. “I would hate to drag [your father] into this.”
Five years later — mere months after her father was shot twice in an attempted robbery that left him in a coma — another man threatened to kill her and her family.
Other paperwork showed examples of unnamed people attempting to extort the late singer.
Aretha passed away on the morning of August 16, 2018, in Detroit, Michigan, surrounded by her loved ones. Her publicist announced her tragic passing in a statement shared that same day.
“It is with deep and profound sadness that we announce the passing of Aretha Louise Franklin, the Queen of Soul,” her rep said at the time. “In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family.”
The Rolling Stone was first to report the contents of the FBI’s file on Aretha.