Aretha Franklin’s ex-husband, Glynn Turman, has said the singer was “fighting all the way” before her death.
Franklin, known as the Queen of Soul, died at home in Detroit, Michigan, on Thursday at the age of 76, following a battle with pancreatic cancer.
Turman, who was married to Franklin from 1978 until 1984, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that she was “strong to the very end”.
“I was holding her hand at the bedside, holding her wrist, which was now no more than skin and bone, but her pulse was so strong and so, so full of life.
“Her breathing was such a defiance of what was attacking her, that you got the sense Aretha was fighting all the way.”
Turman, who was one of the last people to visit Franklin before her death, said she had a “great sense of humour” and that she was “always cracking jokes”.
His comments came after US President Donald Trump said Franklin was a person he “knew well”.
A pool report from the White House quoted him: “I want to begin today by expressing my condolences to the family of a person I knew well. She worked for me on numerous occasions. She was terrific – Aretha Franklin – on her passing.”
He added that she “brought joy to millions of lives and her extraordinary legacy will thrive and inspire many generations to come”.
Franklin’s death was confirmed by her long-time publicist, Gwendolyn Quinn, on behalf of her family, who said she died “surrounded by family and loved ones”.
Quinn added that “funeral arrangements will be announced in the coming days”.
It is unknown if Mr Trump will attend the funeral, which is expected to be a high-profile memorial event.
Tributes have continued to flood in from stars including Dolly Parton, Ariana Grande, Mariah Carey, Sir Elton John and Oprah Winfrey.
They hailed Franklin for her talent and contribution to modern American society after former president Barack Obama said she graced people “with a glimpse of the divine” when she sang.
Recalling seeing Franklin perform at the beginning of the soul singer’s career, Parton tweeted: “She was amazing then and just became greater through the years. Talk about R.E.S.P.E.C.T., we have it for you, Aretha. You will never be forgotten.”
Grande and The Roots performed a tribute on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, singing Franklin’s 1967 hit Natural Woman.
“In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade – our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect,” the Obamas added.
“She helped us feel more connected to each other, more hopeful, more human. And sometimes she helped us just forget about everything else and dance.
“Aretha may have passed on to a better place, but the gift of her music remains to inspire us all. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace. Michelle and I send our prayers and warmest sympathies to her family and all those moved by her song.”
Meanwhile, Carey thanked the star for being “my inspiration, my mentor and my friend”.
She tweeted: “Aretha Franklin. The Queen of Soul. The Icon. The ultimate singers’ singer. The greatest singer and musician of my lifetime. The power of your voice in music and in civil rights blew open the door for me and so many others.”
Winfrey shared a clip from a 2003 interview on her chat show, commenting: “No matter how many great singers and voices there will always be 1 Queen. #ArethaQueenForever”
Music star Adele said she was “absolutely heartbroken” by Franklin’s death.
Sir Elton, who was present for Franklin’s last ever performance, called her death a “blow for everybody who loves real music: Music from the heart, the soul and the Church”.
She continued: “She was a BLACK WOMAN. She gave us the BLUE PRINT. She RAISED THE BAR. She LAID THE FOUNDATION and her name was QUEEN ARETHA FRANKLIN. We could not forget you if we tried. I am infinitely THANKFUL.”
The BBC has announced it will air a new profile on the singer called Aretha Franklin: Respect on BBC One at 9.30pm on Saturday, which will include contributions from Sir Tom Jones and Beverley Knight.