Aretha Franklin Blasts Unauthorized Bio, Calls It a 'Very Trashy Book'

Aretha Franklin, 2014.
Matthew Jordan Smith

Aretha Franklin

The Queen of Soul says don't waste your money -- or soul -- on the recently released unauthorized biography about her.

In a statement, Aretha Franklin called David Ritz's Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin, a "trashy book."

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The two have a history of collaborating: Franklin and award-winning authro Ritz worked together on her 1999 biography, Aretha: From These Roots. He also won a Grammy Award for best album notes for his work on Franklin's 1992 box set, Queen of Soul: The Atlantic Recordings.

"As many of you are aware, there is a very trashy book out there full of lies and more lies about me. ... [The writer's] actions are obviously vindictive because I edited out some crazy statements he had the gall to try and put in my book written 15 years ago," the statement read. "Evidently, he has been carrying this hatred ever since."

In Respect, Ritz writes about Franklin as teenage parent, her own parents' separation, her battle with alcohol and more.

"The sensitive questions -- Aretha's mother leaving the family, Aretha having two babies while still in her teens, Aretha being beaten by her first husband ... were off-limits," Ritz writes in his new book about working with Franklin for their 1999 effort. "In my view, my two years of working on From These Roots resulted in my failure to actualize the great potential in Aretha's narration. I didn't do what I set out to do."

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Ritz has written a number of biographies, ranging from Etta James to Rick James to Ray Charles. He has won the Ralph Gleason Music Book Award four times, and last year he received the ASCAP Timothy White Award for outstanding musical biography for the Buddy Guy book When I Left Home. He has also authored many novels, essays and articles.

"I think the book in the deepest way is an appreciation. And when I say appreciation, it's just not an appreciation of her art; it's an appreciation of the challenges of her life and the appreciation of how hard it is to kind of navigate your way through the complexities of show business culture," Ritz told The Associated Press by phone Monday (Nov. 24).

He writes that Franklin brought up the idea of collaborating on a follow-up to From These Roots, but their ideas for the project were different.

"When I renewed my research for this book, I did so without Aretha's blessing, but I did have the support of three of Aretha's closest relatives," Ritz writes.

Franklin's latest album, Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics, was released a week before Ritz's book last month. The album debuted at No. 3 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.

"I call the book Respect because I think it's a respectful book," Ritz told AP. "I tried to be understanding and compassionate and that was my goal. ... I love her and I love her art, and I tried to honor her story."


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