Throughout Kirk Franklin‘s three-decade-long career, he’s created music that challenged the rules of gospel and told emotional stories that spoke to the masses. He embarked on a journey to tell his inspirational story through music earlier this year when he went on a quest to find his estranged birth father. The impact of their reunion after 53 years was more profound than he imagined.
Franklin told People that finding his father wasn’t always integral to the new album.
“This is the first time I’ve had a behind-the-scenes videographer capturing content for the making of a project,” he told the outlet. “I recorded the first song in March. Then in April, everything shifted and became something I could have never planned for.”
Cameras rolled when the 53-year-old unexpectedly learned who his biological father was. The gospel icon decided to take the emotional footage of his reunion and make it into a short documentary, which drops on Friday. The 35-minute project is aptly titled Father’s Day: A Kirk Franklin Story. Franklin’s new album has the same name and drops on Oct. 6.
Franklin opened up to People about his “horrific” life before he had a career. The choirmaster was adopted at 4 years old after his teenage birth mother was deemed unfit to care for him. Though Franklin knew who his birth mother was, they didn’t have a relationship, and the 53-year-old told People that left him feeling abandoned.
“I lived being bullied as a kid. I had a learning disorder, I failed out of high school,” he told the publication. “I got a young lady pregnant when I was 17 and the church crucified me for it. It’s like I never had anybody take up for me or who had my back.”
At 6, Franklin was introduced to a man his biological mother said was his birth father.
“I didn’t see him again until I was 13 and then he started showing up at concerts after my first album came out,” he told People. “I was angry at the fact that I did not have a father and he would dare show up once my life seemed to have some sense of order. Same for my biological mother,” he said, adding that it was “traumatic for me.”
Franklin assumed his biological father died, as the man he believed was his dad passed. However, he began to think otherwise when a singer he hired to work on his new album said she’d met a man who used to date Franklin’s mother at a funeral. That man, Richard Hubbard, lived in the same neighborhood where Franklin grew up.
Rumors of Franklin’s paternity swirled and ended with Hubbard taking a DNA test, resulting in a 99.9% match.
“To live over half a century with somebody who lived in the same city as you… I suffered so much as a young man without guidance. I struggled with love, intimacy, faith, identity. And to know that the answer was less than 10 minutes away,” Franklin said.
Father’s Day shows Hubbard, who was 14 or 15 when the Grammy Award winner was born, and Franklin meeting for the first time. Hubbard shared he had no idea he had a son.
“He is a great guy,” Franklin told People, adding that Hubbard’s daughter has “been honest about how hard this is for her as well, learning not only does she have a brother but that that brother is Kirk Franklin.”
The documentary also shows how Franklin’s biological mother took the news. Sadly, it wasn’t as positive as Hubbard’s response.
“She’s just very adamant that this man is not my father,” he told People. “I have not heard or talked to her since the second test result.”
Franklin’s discovery didn’t just heal his relationship with his father but also the one with his 35-year-old son Kerrion. The two have been estranged for a decade and hadn’t spoken in two years prior to the documentary.
“My son is a beautiful soul. There are parts of his life that are his to share. I am just very proud that I’m seeing him in his own way,” Franklin shared. “He is beginning to reveal and testify to his struggles, his own battles with certain things that have at times cost him. I know many young Black men struggle with these same things and as he continues to get help and healing he’s going to help so many. He has me and now his grandfather that will be there to help in any way we can.”
Father’s Day: A Kirk Franklin Story is streaming on Franklin’s YouTube Channel.