Why Cash was King for the Queen of Soul

calendar iconJul 1, 2021

Aretha Franklin—the Queen of Soul—left behind some $80 million when she passed away in 2018, and she managed her fortune with care, insisting on being paid in cash for her performances.

Aretha Franklin performing at the Grand Ballroom of the Washington Hilton Hotel in 1992

Fans and fellow artists alike noted she was rarely seen without her purse, even carrying it on stage. The reason for this was her requirement to receive cash up front, to ensure she was properly compensated for her work in an era when prominent African-American artists such as Ray Charles and B.B. King could not always count on payment.

On the counter in front of her, next to her makeup mirror and hairbrush, were small stacks of hundred-dollar bills. She collects on the spot or she does not sing.”
"David Remnick, Journalist, The New Yorker

Her contracts required promoters to ‘physically hand her $25,000 in cash’ and allowed only for anything over this amount to be paid as a cheque. The money was to be presented to none other than Franklin herself, unless prior written authorisation was received from her office.

With a remarkable vocal quality and power, and mastery of genres from gospel and jazz to R&B and pop, Franklin won 18 Grammy Awards, including the first eight given for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance between 1968 and 1975. Knowing her worth, she was determined to receive her due, and cash was—and remains—the surest and most immediate payment method available.

Aretha would put her reading glasses on her nose and she would be there while you counted out the money. The purse would always make it onstage.
"J.B. Miller, Promoter, Empire Entertainment

She afforded the same respect to those who performed with her, also paying them in cash. Narada Michael Walden—who produced Franklin’s 1985 hit Freeway of Love and sometimes played drums in her band—recalled staff gathering around her after an event to receive their money.

You had your audience with her backstage as she paid everyone—the band, backing singers and so on—in cash.
"Narada Michael WaldenMusician and Record Producer
Last Updated: Jun 30, 2021