This Tuesday August 9, 2022, Canal + broadcasts “Respect”, a biopic in honor of a song legend: Aretha Franklin. A committed woman and famous artist, her life was marked by many difficulties: racism, the death of her mother, but also a toxic relationship with her manager and husband Ted White, a man who subjected her to domestic violence on many occasions. .
A civil rights activist with Martin Luther King, close to her father, but also a singer whose music marked the history of rhythm and blues, Aretha Franklin is a legend. Everyone knows his cult songs “Respect” or “Natural Woman”. But behind his ultra-media persona lurks suffering as well, which further fuels his music and the energy he puts behind his words. In the midst of these sufferings, we find in particular his first remarkable love story, in the arms of Ted White.
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The quick union of Aretha Franklin and Ted White
Aretha Franklin was 12 years old when she started performing in front of the audience, in the churches of her pastor father. At 14, when she gave birth to her first child, Clarence, her father got her first contract with JVB Label, and she recorded her first album. However, her father’s will to protect her failed, as she became pregnant again at the age of 14 and gave birth to a second boy, Eddie.
A few years later, and already well established in the world of music, the young artist and single mother had an encounter that would change her life: that of Ted White, a 30-year-old man and promoter who is 12 years old. He will put the ring on her finger a few weeks later. At that time, Aretha Franklin was only 18 years old, and her father CL Franklin strongly opposed her marriage.
This union marked a break in their father-son relationship, and Ted White then became the new manager of his young wife. He founded the Ston-Roc label, and their professional and romantic relationship seemed strong, apparently. They wrote many cult songs, such as “Dr. Feelgood” and “Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream”.
An abusive and violent husband
However, behind closed doors, their relationship is not so gentle. At that time, many relatives of the singer criticized the barely hidden domestic violence of which he would be a frequent victim. In 1968, Time magazine recounted an event that took place in a large hotel, in front of witnesses: “Ted White, Aretha’s husband, manipulated her in public at the Regency Hyatt House Hotel in Atlanta. This isn’t the first incident.White, 37, a former Detroit real estate hack and street dealer, has long since married Aretha and taken over management of her career. [La chanteuse américaine de gospel] Mahalia Jackson sighed: “I don’t think he’s happy. Someone else made her sing the blues, “but Aretha didn’t say anything, and others could only speculate.”
For her part, the singer Etta Jones, close to Aretha Franklin, did not hesitate to accuse Ted White of pimping: “Ted is supposed to be the most cunning pimp in Detroit. When I found out that Aretha got married, I’m not surprised. A lot of the great singers we idolized as little girls … had pimps for boyfriends and managers … Part of the appeal of pimps because they pay us. They protect us. They also beat us,” he said in the biography dedicated to his friend. The artist also stated: “We can compare the situation of Aretha / Ted to the situation of Tina and Ike”, referring to the love story of Tina Turner and Ike Turner, who is also a violent person.
Denial, then divorce
Aretha Franklin’s agent also trusted this relationship in the biography of the singer, confirming that the latter drowned in his grief and his pain with alcohol: “He used to get drunk before a concert. It didn’t help him in any way of singing. … Aretha was very attached to denial. She didn’t want to hear that she had a drinking problem. No matter how many falls she had, the number of tickets she got, the number of mediocre performance he gave because of drunkenness. talent protected him. Even drunk, he could sing better than ninety-nine out of a hundred singers. Most people couldn’t tell there was anything wrong.”
Shortly after the events of the Regency, the couple separated and their divorce was officially announced in 1969. Aretha Franklin left her toxic marriage, and then left her brother Cecil Franklin to manage her career, which was far away. yet.
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