And Finally Artist News Beef Of The Week

Beef Of The Week #352: Aretha Franklin v Dionne Warwick

By | Published on Friday 28 April 2017

Aretha Franklin

Sometimes someone says something so egregious about you, so unbelievable offensive, that you still find yourself seething about it years later. It’s probably best to let old grudges go, but sometimes that’s easier said than done when something so blatantly untrue is said about you.

Which is how Aretha Franklin came to send a “lengthy fax” to the Associated Press this week, correcting the “libel” Dionne Warwick committed five years ago when she said at Whitney Houston’s funeral that Franklin was Houston’s godmother.

Speaking at the funeral in 2012, Warwick, who is Houston’s cousin, introduced Franklin to the 1500 odd mourners, only to discover that she was not actually there – she had been too unwell to appear. Correcting her mistake, she said: “Ree’s not here, but she is here [in spirit]. She loves Whitney as if she were born to her. She is her godmother”.

I know. You’d be angry too, right? The matter was corrected a number of times subsequently by Houston’s mother Cissy. This included an interview with New York radio station WBLS, in which she said that Franklin was “not really” her daughter’s godmother, adding: “She was just a good, good friend of ours. We were always around [each other] and we called everybody everything”.

This did not placate Franklin though, who still reckons that Warwick’s comment did her serious damage. “At this point it isn’t about an apology, it’s about libel”, Franklin told the AP, following on from her fax laying out her claim against Warwick. “She blatantly lied on me … fully well knowing what she was doing”.

Being an actual family member, it is possible that Warwick was aware that Franklin was never actually tasked with Houston’s religious upbringing. Although, given that it was claimed for many years before Houston’s death that Franklin was indeed her godmother, it’s also arguably a thing even a cousin might legitimately mistakenly think. Especially as Houston’s mother apparently admits to having said as much.

The question, of course, is why did Franklin wait so long to go public with this, rather than moving to correct the error before it all grew out of hand?

“There’s been so much going on around [Houston], around the service, around the drugs, around her and Bobby [Brown] supposed to be fighting, I didn’t want to add anything to that and I didn’t want to be a part of that”, she explained. But now, with Houston’s death and the fallout from it far enough in the past, the time has come to raise this matter.

Also, it seems, she was reminded of the slight last week when she bumped into Warwick at the premiere of a documentary about Sony Music exec and Houston’s longtime mentor Clive Davis – ‘Clive Davis: The Soundtrack Of Our Live’ – at the Tribeca Film Festival.

“She said, ‘Give me a hug’. I said, ‘Oh hell no. You couldn’t be serious'”, recalled Franklin. “We’ve never been friends and I don’t think that Dionne has ever liked me”.

Despite the fax, the interview and the repeated claims that what Warwick said constitutes libel, Franklin gave no apparent indication that she plans to go legal over this. Time will tell.

In the meantime, a spokesperson for Warwick said: “She will not dignify a response to the statement made by Aretha Franklin”.

For the record, Whitney Houston’s godmother was actually Darlene Love. Unless she wasn’t, in which case we apologise.