Until 2007, Aretha Franklin was tracked by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with her bumper 270-page file recently obtained by Rolling Stone.
The Queen of Soul, who passed away in 2018 aged 76, was subjected to false phone calls and surveillance, as well as having her inner circle infiltrated by FBI sources, according to the outlet.
Franklin’s file, first requested via the Freedom of Information Act shortly after her death, is reportedly filled with phrases such as “Black extremists”, “pro-communist”, “hate America”, “radical”, “racial violence”, and “militant Black power”.
It also contained plenty of suspicion about the singer, her work, and the other artists and activists she associated with, as the FBI tried and failed to connect the Respect singer to the Black Liberation Army and other “radical” movements.
According to the documents, Franklin’s civil rights work and association with activists including Martin Luther King Jr and Angela Davies, became a focus for the FBI, with agents tracking her addresses, phone numbers and activities.
The singer’s son, Kecalf, told the Rolling Stone he was unsure whether Franklin knew she was under surveillance but said it was a “waste of time” for the FBI to follow her “every move” for so many years after failing to connect her to radical movements of any kind.
“I’m not really sure if my mother was aware that she was being targeted by the FBI and followed. I do know that she had absolutely nothing to hide though…” he said.
“It does make me feel a certain way knowing the FBI had her targeted and wanted to know her every move.
“But at the same time knowing my mother and the way she ran her business I know she had nothing to hide so they wouldn’t have found anything and were wasting their time. As you see…they found nothing at all.”
The documents obtained by Rolling Stone, which include some newly-declassified files and others that are heavily redacted, include a 1968 report discussing funeral plans for Martin Luther King Jr which described it as a “racial situation”.
“Sammy Davis Jr., Aretha Franklin…of this group, some have supported militant Black power concept…[performance at MLK memorial by these prominent entertainers] would provide emotional spark which could ignite racial disturbance in this area,” it reads.
The FBI also included files “just in case”, such as her 1971 contract with Atlantic Records to attempt to connect the Blues Brothers star’s business dealings to the Black Panther Party.
Letters and reports of death threats were among the collection of documents as well, including one from a man threatening to kill her and her family and another extortion attempt against her.
With some documents indicating that there are additional materials in the FBI’s possession that haven’t been released, Rolling Stone requested these records be made available.
The FBI has yet to comment on the report.
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This article first appeared on OverSixty.