Ted White was an American businessman and music maker with specialties ranging from songwriting to music management and production. The Detroit-born is notable for songs like Dr. Feelgood, and Think which he wrote for Aretha Franklin. Also, he was her manager and first husband.
That being said, the serial businessman and Franklin welcomed a child together during their marriage which ended in 1969. Though they seemed to be a perfect couple, White is said to have been abusive towards her. during the marriage, he lived a quiet life following their divorce till his sad death in October 2020.
Ted White was Born and Raised in Michigan
As you would easily find, He was born Theodore Richard White on March 25, 1931, in Detroit, Michigan. The details about his early life are scarce but this is not the case for his ex-wife, Aretha Franklin.
While she was also born in Detroit, she was the daughter of C.L. Franklin, a Christian minister and civil rights activist. Aside from this, she also grew up alongside three known siblings.
Ted White has Won Many Career Hats
Over the years, Ted White’s career was described as many things by many people. Though he described himself as a sandlot promoter, many have described him as a serial entrepreneur who owned many jukeboxes, a kind of automated music-playing device that served as an important source of income for record publishers. Based on this, we may not be wrong to state that owning several of these in the ’60s and ’70s provided him with an opportunity to showcase new records as well as make money from those who patronized them.
Prior, he is said to have been into real estate within the Detroit area. Furthermore, his interest in business made him start the Ston-Roc record label. Through this, he had a direct link to the writing and production process. Notably, he produced Talking About the People/Don’t Ever Leave Me for Tony & Tyrone in 1964. Also, he collaborated with Franklin on some of her songs. In 1964, he wrote Lee Cross for her but it was later released by Walter Jackson instead. Regardless of this, White co-wrote songs from several albums including Dr. Feel Good and Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream from I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You.
Aside from writing some of Franklin’s songs, he also became her manager. Apparently, this new role was not easily acceptable to many in the music industry especially Harvey Fuqua who saw White as a pimp that made his way into managing a successful singer like Franklin.
How Did he Meet and Marry Aretha Franklin?
For years, Franklin was seen as the queen of soul music, and for this, there has been so much curiosity about her personal life including the first man she married. Apparently, their relationship started in 1961 when the singer Della Deese introduced the two at the Twenty Grand Club in Detroit. At the time Franklin was 19 years old while White was 30. As such, many especially Franklin’s father, C.L. Franklin were against the relationship.
Nonetheless, the two were deeply in love, and within a few weeks of knowing each other, the two decided to take the relationship to a serious level. They quickly went to a justice of the peace while on tour in Ohio and got married.
During the marriage, they welcomed a son named Ted White Jr. in 1964. While Ted was White’s first child, he was Franklin’s third at the time. She had previously given birth to her first child, Clarence at the age of 12 and a second one, Edward at the age of 15.
Away from this, White and Franklin’s child later played guitar for his mother and a singer-songwriter under the name Teddy Richards.
The Truth About Their Divorce
As mentioned earlier, the record producer became Franklin’s manager back in the 60s. As it is, it meant that their relationship was both a professional and romantic one but this is not new to us, right? Moving forward, they projected an image of a marriage that seemingly had no problems if their close collaboration was anything to go by.
However, the lyrics of I Never Loved a Man which was released in 1967, gave snippets into their relationship. A line goes ‘…I don’t know why I let you do these things to me/ My friends keep telling me that you ain’t no good…’. As if this is not enough, their problems soon became public when White maltreated her even in front of friends. He is said to have abused her at the Regency Hyatt House Hotel. Apparently, the incident was witnessed by gospel singer Mahalia Jackson and she explained that it was not the first. These problems separated the two in 1968.
Despite their staying apart, things only continued to go bad. In 1969, White shot Charles Cook, the younger brother of the singer Sam Cook during a visit to Franklin’s home. Eventually, they finalized divorce in 1969 after 8 years of marriage.
Following their divorce, his son moved to Oak Park in Michigan where White’s family trained him. Notably, they had an arrangement, where Ted Jr. spent the break with his mother in Detroit.
Where is Ted White Now?
According to Wikipedia, Ted White died on October 26, 2020, in Detroit, Michigan at the age of 89. Though the cause of his death was not revealed, we may not be wrong to attach it to age or some unknown illness considering that he stayed away from public attention after his divorce from Aretha Franklin.
Prior to his death, he was portrayed in Genius without his consent. After his death, he was again portrayed in Respect, a biopic about the life of his ex-wife.