Erma Franklin

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Erma Franklin
Franklin in 1967
Franklin in 1967
Background information
Birth nameErma Vernice Franklin
Born(1938-03-13)March 13, 1938
Shelby, Mississippi, U.S.
DiedSeptember 7, 2002(2002-09-07) (aged 64)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Years active1955–2002

Erma Vernice Franklin (March 13, 1938 – September 7, 2002) was an American gospel and soul singer. Franklin was the elder sister of American singer/musician Aretha Franklin. Franklin's best known recording was the original version of "Piece of My Heart", written and produced by Bert Berns, and recorded in 1967, for which she was nominated for a Grammy Award.[1] A cover version of the same song was recorded the following year by Big Brother and the Holding Company, with the lead vocal by Janis Joplin.


Early life and family[edit]

Erma Franklin was born in Shelby, Mississippi, United States,[1][2] the oldest daughter of Barbara (née Siggers) and the Reverend C.L. Franklin. She was raised in Detroit, Michigan, where her father was pastor of the New Bethel Baptist Church. She was raised by both parents until the age of 10, when her parents separated for the final time. Her mother took her eldest sibling, half-brother Vaughn, with her to Buffalo, New York, in 1948. Barbara Siggers-Franklin died four years later on March 7, 1952, in Buffalo, New York. Franklin studied Business at Clark Atlanta University (then known as Clark College).


During her childhood, Erma and her sisters Aretha and Carolyn sang at New Bethel Baptist Church. Later, when Aretha became a recording artist, Erma provided backing vocals and toured with her. Among her more notable back-up performances for her sister was on Aretha's signature tune "Respect".[1]

Erma Franklin sang the original version of Piece of My Heart, which was a top 10 soul hit in the U.S. and rose to number 62 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart.[2] The track was co-written and produced by Bert Berns.[2] In the UK, Franklin's version was used in a Levi's jeans commercial ("Cinderella" AKA "Night and Day"), leading to a resurgence of interest in the song. The single was re-released in the UK in 1992 and peaked on the UK Singles Chart at number 9.[2]

Franklin told an interviewer that when she first heard Janis Joplin's version on the radio, she did not recognize it because of the vocal arrangement.[3]

In the mid-1970s, Franklin left the music industry, apart from occasional engagements with her sister. She was one of the special guests on Aretha's 1986 Showtime cable television special — filmed at Detroit's Music Hall — and also performed on June 28, 1990 at Nelson Mandela's rally at Tiger Stadium.[3]

Personal life and death[edit]

Franklin married Thomas Garrett and gave birth to their two children: Thomas Garrett Jr. and Sabrina Garrett. For 25 years, Franklin worked for the Boysville Holy Cross Community Center, a Detroit organization that helps homeless and disadvantaged minority children.[2] Franklin died of cancer in Detroit, Michigan on September 7, 2002, at age 64.[1] She is interred at Detroit's historic Woodlawn Cemetery.



Year Album Peak Chart Positions Label
1962 Her Name is Erma - Epic
1969 Soul Sister 199 Brunswick
2015 The Electric Flag Featuring Erma Franklin - Live 1968

(with The Electric Flag)

- RockBeat
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


Year Single Peak Chart Positions Album Label


1961 "Hello Again" - - - Her Name is Erma Epic
1961 "What Kind of Girl" - - - Her Name is Erma Epic
1962 "Time After Time" - - - Her Name is Erma Epic
1962 "Dear Momma" - - - Non-album single Epic
1963 "I Don't Want No Momma's Boy" - - - Non-album single Epic
1963 "Abracadabra" - - - Non-album single Epic
1967 "Big Boss Man" - - - Non-album single Shout
1967 "Piece of My Heart" 62 10 9 Non-album single Shout
1968 "Open Up Your Soul" - - - Non-album single Shout
1968 "I'm Just Not Ready For Love" - - - Non-album single Shout
1968 "The Right to Cry" - - - Non-album single London
1969 "It Could've Been Me" - - - Non-album single Brunswick
1969 "Saving My Love For You" - - - Soul Sister Brunswick
1969 "Gotta Find Me a Lover (24 Hours a Day)" - 40 - Soul Sister Brunswick
1970 "Whispers (Gettin' Louder)" - - - Non-album single Brunswick
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


  1. ^ a b c d "The Dead Rock Stars Club 2002 July to December".
  2. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 490. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  3. ^ a b "Erma Franklin". June 28, 1990. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved December 28, 2012.

External links[edit]