FBI's obsession with Aretha Franklin: she was spied on for 40 years

From 1967 to 2007, the agency gathered information on the singer through fake phone calls, surveillance and infiltration, according to 'Rolling Stone.’

The FBI spied on singer Aretha Franklin for 40 years, a file accessed by Rolling Stone has revealed. The federal agency considered the Queen of Soul "suspect" for her activism in favor of civil and political rights and the African-American community.

The recently declassified 270-page document records FBI investigations into the artist's ties to other civil rights figures such as Angela Davis and Martin Luther King Jr. The investigation was released by journalist Jen Dize, who requested access to these documents following Aretha Franklin's death in 2018.

The 'Queen of Soul,' a four-decade obsession for the FBI

Thus, Aretha Franklin became an obsession for the FBI. Her addresses, phone numbers and personal activities were tracked by the federal agency for decades. The documents even include details of threats against the star. For example, in 1979, four months after Franklin's father was shot in Detroit, she received a death threat against her and her family.

According to Rolling Stone, expressions such as "racial violence.” "black extremists,” "pro-communists,” "hatred of the United States" or "radicals" appear recurrently in the report. Although the FBI did not comment on the content of this article, Aretha Franklin is not the first artist to be spied on by the federal agency for allegedly dangerous activities. In August, the last surviving member of The Monkees, Micky Dolenz, sued the FBI over an alleged "secret dossier" he believes the agency has on him and his former bandmates in the band that reached its heyday in the 1960s. In this regard, many artists are monitored by the FBI, either because they are potential victims of a crime or because they are suspected for their social or political activities. The list includes names such as Whitney Houston, Marvin Gaye, John Denver and Jimmy Hendrix.

What is surprising in this case is the duration of these follow-ups. The agency spent no less than forty years spying on Aretha Franklin without discovering anything linking the Queen of Soul to extremist or radical activities. Kecalf Franklin, the artist's son, told Rolling Stone:

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.

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