Friday, September 17, 2021

‘Racism’ the Reason Why Aretha Franklin Insisted on Being Paid in Cash

*Legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin died on Thursday at the age of 76 from advanced pancreatic cancer.

The 18 Grammy Award-winner was the first woman to ever land 100 hits on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. But many fans may not know that she was also known for demanding cash up front for performances.

In 2016, when The New Yorker’s David Remnick went backstage at a Franklin show, he saw stacks of money and soon learned she had a rule: “She collects on the spot or she does not sing.”

According to the report, she would stash the money in her purse then give it to her security guards or keep it with her onstage for the duration of her performance.

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Tavis Smiley explained that Franklin’s cash-only process stemmed from her early days in music when black singers were underpaid and often cheated out of royalties.

“It’s the era she grew up in—she saw so many people, like Ray Charles and B. B. King, get ripped off,” Smiley told The New Yorker. “There is the sense in her very often that people are out to harm you. And she won’t have it. You are not going to disrespect her.”

The Smoking Gun published a copy of a contract dating back to 2010, and Franklin’s team requested that promoters hand her $25,000 in cash and the rest of the fee could be paid via a check.

“It is understood that this money shall be presented by the promoter or the designated person, directly to Ms. Franklin,” the rider states. “No one other than Ms. Franklin is to be given payment in any form on her behalf unless prior written authorization is received.”

In the 2014 book “Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin,” talent agent Dick Alen revealed that she used the cash to pay her staff — off the books.

“She deducted no taxes and made no records. I’d beg her to implement some system of documentation, but she refused,” he added. “I knew that eventually there’d be hell to pay from the IRS.”

And he was right.

The IRS came after Franklin over her tax deductions and put a roughly $490,000 tax lien on her Michigan house due to unpaid taxes. She was also named in about 30 lawsuits alleging that she had skipped payments on everything from plumbing services, to homeowner association fees, to limo rides, noted The Detroit Free Press.

She called the story “malicious and vicious,” and blamed missed payments on her “travel and performance schedule and lack of a secretary in place during that period of time.”

At the time of her death, Aretha Franklin had an estimated net worth of $60 million.

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is a screenwriter and freelance reporter from Chicago -- currently living in Los Angeles and covering A-list entertainment for various outlets, including Emmys.com. She has worked for: Miramax, MTV & VH1, The Jim Henson Company, Hallmark Channel, Paramount Pictures, and for iconic indie film producer Roger Corman.

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