Why Aretha Franklin Always Carried Her Purse On Stage

Aretha Franklin, known as the Queen of Soul, performed every year until health issues forced her to retire in 2017. One thing most fans may have noticed but not understood is Franklin’s habit of taking her purse with her on stage. Her staff knew Franklin’s routine: if she walked on stage for rehearsals, she put the purse on the piano. If she walked downstage, she picked it up and put it on the floor. Glenn Weiss, producer of the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors, remembers that when Franklin’s performance ended and everyone at the tribute was singing “I Feel the Earth Move,” there was one lone bag sitting in the middle of the stage. When the number finished, singer James Taylor leaned over, picked up the bag, and handed it to Franklin. The purse routine has a long history and was recently explained. The reason Aretha Franklin always carried her purse on stage was because she asked for payment in advance of her performances and the payment had to be in cash. Her reasoning was that in the early days of her career, many black performers were either underpaid or not paid at all for their performances. That’s when she developed the policy of collecting on the spot or she didn’t sing. The cash went into the handbag and the handbag either stayed with her security team or went out on stage and remained on the piano, within eye-shot, at all times. Franklin left behind a fortune of $80 million when she died, so she must have done something right.