Erma Vernice Franklin (March 13, 1938 – September 7, 2002) was an American gospel and R&B 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 Hea...
Erma Vernice Franklin (March 13, 1938 – September 7, 2002) was an American gospel and R&B 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. The better-known 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
Erma Franklin was born in Shelby, Mississippi, 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 ten 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. Erma married Thomas Garrett and gave birth to two children in the early 1960s - Thomas Jr. and Sabrina. She later worked for the Boysville Holy Cross Community Center, a Detroit organization that helps homeless and disadvantaged minority children.
During her childhood Erma and her sisters Aretha and Carolyn sang at New Bethel Baptist Church. Later, when sister Aretha became a recording artist, Erma provided backing vocals and toured with Aretha. Among her most notable back-up performances for her sister was on Aretha's signature tune, "'Respect". Franklin's version of "Piece of My Heart" was a top ten R&B hit in the U.S., and also peaked at number sixty-two on the U.S. Pop Singles chart. In the UK, the single was re-released in 1992, due to a successful Levi's jeans commercial ("Cinderella" AKA "Night and Day" directed by Tarsem Singh), when it peaked inside the UK Singles Chart at number nine. Franklin told an interviewer that when she first heard Janis Joplin's version on the radio, she didn't recognize it because of the vocal arrangement. Erma's solo recording career was hampered by misfortune and by contracts with record labels who did not find the most suitable material for her husky voice. In the mid-1970s Erma left the music industry, apart from occasional engagements with Aretha. 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 the Nelson Mandela's rally at Tiger Stadium.
Erma Franklin was diagnosed with throat cancer in the spring of 2002 and died in Detroit that September at the age of 64. She is interred at Detroit's historic Woodlawn Cemetery.