Aretha Franklin was also singing the blues off stage.
The Queen of Soul, who rarely discussed her marriage troubles to first husband Ted White, previously shared only a few glimpses of the domestic abuse she suffered during the relationship.
Franklin and White, who was also her manager, married in 1961 when she was just 19 years old; but after seven years of marriage, they separated in 1968.
The end of their marriage was dogged by reports of domestic abuse, and White “roughed her up” more than once, according to a 1968 TIME story.
“It was not the first such incident. … I don’t think she’s happy. Somebody else is making her sing the blues,” Franklin’s friend and fellow gospel singer Mahalia Jackson told TIME.
White also left Franklin with “visible bruises,” according to the 2014 biography Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin, by ghostwriter David Ritz.
“Ugly physical fights were not unusual between White and Franklin,” Ritz wrote, as reported by the New York Times.
Franklin’s fans presumed the lyrics from her 1967 classic “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You,” from the album of the same name, gave insight into her marriage to White.
“I don’t know why I let you do these things to me/ My friends keep telling me that you ain’t no good/ But oh, they don’t know that I’d leave you if I could/ I ain’t never loved a man the way that I love you,” she sang.
Franklin and White had one son, Ted “Teddy” White Jr., in 1964. After playing backup guitar for his mom for years, he broke out on his own as a singer-songwriter, going by the name Teddy Richards.
Then in 1978, Franklin — who remained close to her longtime love Willie Wilkerson until her death — wed her second husband, actor Glynn Turman. White stepped down as her manager following their divorce.
Franklin died Thursday morning of advance pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, her publicist confirmed to PEOPLE. She was 76.
“In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family. The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds,” the music icon’s family said in a statement.
“We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world. Thank you for your compassion and prayers. We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on. As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.”
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