The Queen of Soul fiercely protected her privacy to the end.
Aretha Franklin passed away Thursday at age 76 from advanced pancreatic cancer — and her biographer insisted the singer’s need to keep her personal life away from media scrutiny has always been paramount.
People Magazine reported David Ritz spent two years working with the iconic singer on her 1999 memoir “From These Roots” before later penning his own biography on Franklin’s life, 2015’s “Respect.” That book resulted in a public rift between the two.
Ritz claimed his take was the absolute true story of Franklin’s lasting music career and tumultuous personal life. In response, Franklin declared his account, which claimed she battled alcohol addiction, was “full of lies.”
But Ritz stood by his manuscript.
“She had a tough childhood,” Ritz told the magazine. “And early on in her career, she was hit by the tabloids.”
Ritz said Franklin’s determination to keep her personal life away from the spotlight may have started while she was married to her first husband, one-time manager Ted White.
The pair originally tied the knot in 1961.
“There were stories of her being a victim of domestic violence and she didn’t like that,” he explained. “She didn’t like the image of her being a beaten woman. She loved the blues but she didn’t want to be seen as a tragic blues figure. She put out a picture of her having a happy home and happy children and everything was rosy and any stories to the contrary really got her mad.”
Franklin and White would ultimately divorce in 1969. Franklin then went on to marry actor Glynn Turman in 1978. The couple called it quits in 1984.
People added there were other factors that explained why Franklin guarded her privacy. The mother of four welcomed her first two sons when she was a teenager and famously never revealed or confirmed the identity of their fathers.
She also dismissed pesky rumors concerning her health over the years.
“I’m doing very well,” she told People in 2016. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to be around like Perry Como, somewhere on a couch laying down with a microphone, still singing.”
Before Franklin’s death, reports claimed the star was near the end of a long battle with cancer. But even then, Franklin refused to address the assertion. In response, she told Jet Magazine, “I am not going to even deal with that.”
In 2017, Franklin announced her retirement from touring.
Ritz said Franklin has always relied on her optimism to cope with any struggles she endured when not on stage.
“She’s not atypical in her privacy, she’s just extreme,” said Ritz. “I think her strategy for emotional survival was idealization of her life in general. When you tend to idealize things, you don’t have to deal with a lot of the tough realities.”
Publicist Gwendolyn Quinn told The Associated Press through a family statement that Franklin died Thursday at 9:50 a.m. at her home in Detroit.
The statement said "Franklin's official cause of death was due to advanced pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin's oncologist, Dr. Philip Phillips of Karmanos Cancer Institute" in Detroit.
The family added: "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 statement continued:
"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."
Funeral arrangements will be announced in the coming days.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.