NEW YORK (AP) — The Queen of Soul is coming out swinging against fellow legend Dionne Warwick, accusing her of making up a story that she was Whitney Houston’s godmother, even though the alleged offense happened five years ago at Houston’s funeral.
“She blatantly lied on me … fully well knowing what she was doing,” Aretha Franklin said in a phone interview.
Franklin called The Associated Press on Tuesday, after sending a lengthy fax the day before, to address what she claimed was a “libelous” statement against her made five years ago at Houston’s funeral. At the time, Warwick told funeral-goers that Franklin was there and introduced her but then realized she wasn’t in attendance.
“‘Ree’s not here, but she is here,” Warwick said, referring to Franklin by a nickname. “She loves Whitney as if she were born to her. She is her godmother.”
At the time, Franklin said she was suffering from swollen feet and had to skip the funeral so she could perform later that night at Radio City Music Hall in New York, which she said she was contractually obligated to do.
Though Cissy Houston, Whitney Houston’s mother, said in the days afterward that Franklin wasn’t Houston’s godmother (it was Darlene Love), Franklin felt the comment was damaging to her and planned to address it at a later date.
“There’s been so much going on around her [Whitney Houston], around the service, around the drugs, around her and Bobby [Brown] supposed to be fighting, I didn’t want to add anything to that and I didn’t want to be a part of that,” she said.
Five years later, Franklin feels that time is now.
While the story that Whitney Houston was Franklin’s goddaughter has been part of her story for decades, Franklin said she first met Houston when Whitney was a child — and she was far too busy to be anyone’s godmother.
Franklin saw Warwick last week at the Tribeca Film Festival’s premiere of mentor Clive Davis’ documentary, “Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives,” and she also performed. Franklin said Warwick tried to talk to her backstage.
“She said, ‘Give me a hug.’ I said, ‘Oh, hell no. You couldn’t be serious,'” Franklin said. When asked if she wanted an apology from Warwick, she said: “I don’t care about her apology. At this point, it isn’t about an apology, it’s about libel.”
She added: “We’ve never been friends and I don’t think that Dionne has ever liked me.” Franklin has covered Warwick’s hit “Walk on By,” and, more famously, “I Say A Little Prayer.”
When asked for comment, Warwick’s representative Angelo Ellerbee said: “She will not dignify a response to the statement made by Aretha Franklin.”