Aretha Franklin is threatening legal action over a new unauthorized biography, “Respect,” by her former ghostwriter David Ritz — which makes wild claims about her sexual promiscuity on the 1950s gospel circuit, known by insiders as the “Sex Circus,” when she was a young teen.
The Queen of Soul, who is promoting new album “Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics,” is “enormously upset by the book,” just released by Little, Brown and Company, sources say.
Ritz, who penned Aretha’s 1999 memoir “From These Roots,” now claims that material was cut by the fiercely private singer from that first tome, including that the gospel circuit, which Aretha and her own father toured on, was known as the “Sex Circus,” with “men-and-men and women-and-women hookups.” Singer Etta James is quoted, “I can understand Aretha not wanting to talk about that . . . Who wants to admit that you’re praising the Lord at the 8 p.m. service and servicing some drop-dead gorgeous hunk of a singer an hour later? Aretha and I started out before we were teenagers . . . we wanted to experience it all. I wouldn’t use the expression sexually active, I’d say sexually overactive.”
But the book, narrated through interviews with friends, family and associates, also paints an inspirational picture of a prodigy who lost her mother at 10, had two kids in her teens, and overcame an abusive marriage thanks to her considerable talent and spirit.