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Aretha Franklin Feuded With This Star for Years: "We've Never Been Friends"

Franklin had strong words for her fellow singer the year before she died.

They're two of the most popular singers of all time and share a number of musical connections, but Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick never got along. At the very least, Franklin didn't have many positive things to say about Warwick, which she made clear in her later years. While the gossip about the tension between the two singers goes back decades, things came to a head in 2017 when Franklin spoke out about comments Warwick made at Whitney Houston's funeral five years earlier. Read on to find out more about Warwick and Franklin's history and to learn what upset Franklin about Houston's memorial.

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Franklin and Warwick share some musical history.

Dionne Warwick performing in 1969
Bettmann / Getty Images

Franklin and Warwick both became hugely popular in the 1960s, and they both recorded their own versions of the same song. In 1967, Warwick released "I Say a Little Prayer," and the next year, Franklin released her take, which also became a hit. According to Page Six, this was interpreted by some as Franklin trying to show her dominance as a singer, particularly because Franklin's version had Cissy Houston, Warwick's aunt, on background vocals.

They were also signed to the same label.

Aretha Franklin at an event circa 1978
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Franklin and Warwick were both signed to the same record label, Arista, by the late '70s.

"The [lingering] tension has something to do with the fact that Clive [Davis] had [signed] both artists. Aretha became his favorite, but Dionne was still connected to Clive," explained Cynthia Horner, a magazine publisher who knew Franklin since the '70s, according to Page Six.

On top of that, Whitney Houston also joined Arista later. The "I Will Always Love You" singer was Warwick's cousin.

Whitney's funeral stirred up new drama.

Whitney Houston and Dionne Warwick performing together in 2011
Kevin Mazur / Getty Images

When Whitney died in 2012, Warwick obviously attended the funeral. Franklin was invited and was supposed to sing but was unable to attend due to a health issue. According to People, at the funeral, Warwick was confused at first about whether Franklin was there, and said, "Ree's not here, but she is here. She loves Whitney as if she were born to her. She is her godmother."

As Cissy, Whitney's mother, later clarified, Franklin was not Whitney's godmother.

Franklin cleared up some rumors.

Aretha Franklin, Babyface Edmonds, and Whitney Houston at the Clive Davis Pre-Grammy Party in 1997
Larry Busacca/Getty Images

As reported by E! News, when the news first came out that Franklin did not attend the funeral, there was speculation that it was due to a rift between herself and Cissy. Franklin shot this rumor down, saying in a statement, "My heart goes out to my dear friend Cissy [Houston], Dionne [Warwick], Bobbi Kristina [Brown] and the rest of the family. May God keep them all."

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Five years later, she had more to say.

Aretha Frankling performing at Detroit Music Weekend in 2017
Monica Morgan/Getty Images

In 2017, Franklin called what what Warwick said about her being Whitney's godmother and not being in attendance "libelous" to the Associated Press. She continued, "[Warwick] blatantly lied on me … fully well knowing what she was doing."

Franklin also explained why she didn't speak up about it at the time. "There's been so much going on around her (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.

Franklin said that she and Warwick never got along.

Dionne Warwick, Chaka Khan, and Aretha Frankling at the Rhythm & Blues Foundation's 20th Anniversary Pioneer Awards Gala in 2008
Lisa Lake/WireImage via Getty Images

When speaking to the Associated Press, Franklin said that she had run into Warwick the week before at a screening of a documentary about Davis at the Tribeca Film Festival. "She said, 'Give me a hug,'" Franklin recalled. "I said, 'Oh hell no. You couldn't be serious.'"

Franklin was asked if she wanted an apology from Warwick, to which she said, "I don't care about her apology, at this point it isn't about an apology, it's about libel. We've never been friends and I don't think that Dionne has ever liked me."

Warwick honored Franklin after her death.

Dionne Warwick performing in March 2022
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

In response to Franklin's Associated Press comments, Warwick, now 81, said through her rep, "She will not dignify a response to the statement made by Aretha Franklin." According to Page Six, a rep for the singer also once said, "Dionne has always spoken favorably about this lady."

When Franklin died in 2018, Warwick released a statement about her. She said, as reported by CNN:

Our Heavenly Father has chosen one of our most prolific voices to join His Heavenly Choir … Aretha now rests in peace!! I, like I'm sure she was taught, that we are all put on this earth for a purpose, and once that is fulfilled, we will then be "Called Home!" She sincerely will be missed throughout the musical world, family, and friends. My deep heartfelt condolence I send from my family to her family and do hope the grief I know they are feeling will begin to subside with time, as losing a family member is a VERY HARD THING to process. Know that her pain is over and she suffers no longer! Rest in peace my friend.

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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