Tragic Details About Usher's Life

Correction 2/1/24: An earlier version of this article misstated the amount of a 2012 settlement. This amount has been corrected to $1.1 million instead of $20 million.  

Over the course of the past few decades, the music industry has gifted us with some phenomenal artists, producing hit after hit and making headlines while they're at it. Usher — full name Usher Terry Raymond IV — is one of them. The superstar singer burst onto the scene in the '90s with his debut album "Usher." Despite only being 15 years old at the time, the album proved to be a commercial hit. It was the beginning of a glittering career and a lavish life that would see songs like "You Make Me Wanna" and "Yeah!" establishing him as a true force to be reckoned with. It might seem like the sensual hitmaker had it easy rising up in the business from such an early age, but Usher's story is a lot more complex than it may seem to the casual onlooker.

From a broken home to broken marriages and tragic untimely deaths followed by devastating near misses, Usher has been through a lot, all while living a very public life. Despite the ups and downs, Usher is still at the top of his game, headlining the Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show in 2024 to much fanfare. 

Given everything that he's been through, how Usher continues to push forward might seem gravity-defying to some. After all, there's only so much heartache one person can take, but if anyone can rise above it all, it's this man. Let's take a look at Usher's turbulent past. 

Usher had an absent father and was raised by a single mom

Growing up has its challenges, but life was a little more complicated for Usher than it is for most. The musician was raised by his mother, Jonnetta Patton, a single mom who encouraged her son to pursue what he loved to do. The singer explained to Grant Cardone in an interview that it wasn't easy for him to cut his teeth in Chattanooga, Tennessee. "Hip-hop was born around the time I was a baby," he explained. "Then I found my way in time, but Chattanooga was a hard start for me, man ... coming from a single-parent home, there weren't a lot of pluses there."

Despite admitting that it was difficult, Usher praised his mom for giving him the spirit of an entertainer, which he said came from her first. As for his father, Usher laid bare some details about their strained relationship on an episode of Oprah Winfrey's "Master Class" series, explaining that his father struggled with drug addiction. As a result, he was never there for his son, and Usher had to forge his own way forward without the influence of his biological father. 

While Usher certainly made the most out of life with a strong mother figure, it can't have been an easy feat. Little did he know the heartache would come to a peak some years later.

He experienced a lot of racism growing up

It's not a sweeping statement to say that racism is rife across the world. Though society has progressed for the better over the last century, we still have a long way to go. No one knows this better than Usher, who struggled growing up as a Black kid in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The singer recounted his childhood experiences during an interview with The Standard, which referenced an assault on four Black women that took place just two years after the star was born in the city. "My parents tried to insulate me from experiencing the confining realities of being a Black person in the South," he remembered. Despite their efforts, Usher recalled witnessing unfair preferential treatment of white kids at school and being called racial slurs. 

Usher was quick to point out that the same issues still exist today, expressing a belief that in order to move forward, we have to "understand, and acknowledge, our past." While the "Confessions" singer didn't go into further detail about how this part of his life made him feel, it's not a stretch to assume that it had a lasting impact on him. Usher's choice to speak about it as an adult is important, especially to those who can't understand what it's like to be in that situation. 

As difficult as his childhood was, Usher focused on his music and rose straight to the top. Can the bullies who taunted him say the same? 

His famous relationship with TLC's Chilli was plagued with trust issues

When you're a superstar, dating someone who isn't famous or at least in the business can be challenging. Stars often gravitate to other big names because no one else will understand the trials and tribulations quite as well. Of course, famous couples do have downsides, like constant public attention and speculation. Usher first started dating TLC member Chilli, real name Rozonda Ocielian Thomas, back in the early '00s. During their relationship, they were photographed at numerous events and were even under the same record label at one point, LaFace Records. 

Though fans were rooting for the seriously attractive king and queen of R&B to be endgame, it didn't quite work out that way. Such a high-profile relationship at an early age isn't going to be smooth sailing. Chilli spoke about the ebb and flow of their love story in 2023, telling People, "We definitely had some chemistry. But working chemistry does not mean it works in your personal life. If we were working, it was great. But outside of that, we're so different." The "No Scrubs" hitmaker went on to explain that she expected a certain standard from Usher that he couldn't deliver, and the relationship came to an end because of trust issues. 

According to Chilli, the pair were on and off for years before she finally cut off contact for good in 2019. As for Usher, he has remained quiet about his side of the heartbreak.

His estranged father died in 2008

Usher didn't have a great relationship with his father. Because of his dad's addiction issues, Usher grew up without him. While his mother helped him find success, he was left without a father figure. In 2008, the already tragic situation took another turn that the singer wasn't expecting. In Oprah Winfrey's show, "Master Class" in 2017, Usher explained that his father was taken into the intensive care unit in dire need of a transplant. He grappled with what to do, whether he should reconnect with his ailing father, step in and help with medical expenses, or let it be. 

In the end, Usher took the advice from fellow musician and friend, Nelly, who encouraged him to help his father and take the opportunity to rebuild some sort of relationship. Although it wasn't an easy choice, Usher paid for the treatment and his father was able to get a liver transplant. It could have been the start of a new beginning for the singer and his dad, but sadly, it wasn't to be. During the transplant surgery, Usher's father fell into a coma. 

To make matters worse, Usher was expecting his own child at the time. He explained on Winfrey's show, "The hardest part of this story is the fact that, within the process of making the decision of whether my father lives or dies, if they take him off of the [breathing] machine, my son is across town just being born."

Usher's first marriage ended in a sour divorce

Despite singing some of the best-known love songs in modern music history, Usher hasn't been all that lucky in romance. In 2007, a few short years after his official romance with Chilli of TLC ended, Usher tied the knot with Tameka Foster. The pair said their vows in a sweet ceremony at a French chateau just outside of Atlanta, with one guest claiming, "It was a long time coming," according to People. Although, perhaps signs of trouble were always present, as the publication also reported at the time Usher's mom, Jonnetta Patton, didn't attend because of "clashes" with her daughter-in-law. 

A few short years later, the pair split, and Usher dished the dirt during an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2012, recounted by ABC News. The singer made it clear that he wouldn't be talking about the failed marriage again, telling Winfrey he prided himself on being a man of integrity for the sake of the couple's sons. However, he lamented, "I really felt like we were friends. [Foster] made us enemies in a way that I could never understand."

He admitted that his mother wasn't the only one who didn't support the relationship, and he had previously called off the wedding before their official ceremony. When pressed on whether he was faithful, Usher admitted he wasn't. A custody battle for their two sons, Usher Raymond V and Naviyd ensued, with a judge awarding the singer primary custody.

He was close to his stepson, Kile Glover, who died in a tragic accident in 2012

Losing a child, biological or not, is one of the most unbearable devastations life can throw at you. In 2012, three years after Usher filed for divorce from Tameka Foster, a disaster struck that knocked the exes for six. Foster's son, Kile Glover, from a previous marriage, was just 11 years old when he was killed in a jet ski accident. Glover was playing in Lake Lanier, Georgia, with another child when Jeffrey Simon Hubbard plowed into them, causing severe injuries. While the other child recovered, Foster died two weeks later in hospital, according to Time.

At the time, Usher and Foster were trying to settle their custody dispute, leading many to speculate that the singer chose not to attend the funeral of his stepson. Usher wholeheartedly rebuffed the claims in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, saying he was there, he just wasn't pictured (via Daily Mail). "It hurts me to hear people speculating that I wasn't at the funeral. I absolutely was at the funeral. I was at the burial as well," he explained. He also expressed how much he missed Glover. "I miss Kile. We cooked together, we laughed, we sang. He loved to sing and dance. He loved to tell jokes."

Despite not being related by blood, it seemed to be a devastating loss that Usher felt to his core, despite the tension between himself and his ex-wife.

His son, Usher Raymond V, was put into intensive care in 2013

As if the untimely death of Usher's stepson, Kile Glover, wasn't enough tragedy, the singer and his ex-wife were confronted with the idea of loss a second time the following year. This time, it was the couple's son, Usher Raymond V, who was left fighting for his life. In a cruel twist of fate, the boy suffered catastrophic injuries when his arm got caught in a pool drain at Usher's home in 2013. At the time, he was just 5 years old. TMZ reported that the child was playing in the pool with his aunt when he spotted a toy in the drain of the pool. When he swam down to retrieve it, his arm got caught, and neither his aunt nor a maid could get the tot free. 

The terrifying incident came to a head when two contractors heard the screams of the women. One of them was able to heroically come to the rescue and get the child out of the water, before giving him CPR. Usher wasn't home at the time, but reportedly rushed to the hospital to be with his child, who was admitted into the ICU and taken care of by doctors. Thankfully, he made a full recovery. 

Foster then tried to get custody of the children for a second time, telling the judge that Usher was "creating a dangerous environment" for them, as reported by Sky News.

In 2017, Usher was sued over a sexual encounter with fans

Hearing that public figures accused of terrible things has become an all-too-common occurrence in recent years. Speculations and allegations can alter the way a star is viewed forever, regardless of whether they're cleared of the crime or not. In 2017, Usher found himself on the wrong side of the law when three fans sued him, claiming that he had sex with them without telling them that he had a sexually transmitted disease. According to them, the singer, whom they trusted and idolized, failed to tell them that he had herpes.

The claims were bolstered by previous reports that Usher had settled a similar lawsuit back in 2012 for a cool $1.1 million. One of the fans, Quantasia Sharpton, hired celebrity attorney Lisa Bloom to help her with the case. Even though she tested negative for the virus, Sharpton said the entire debacle had caused her severe emotional distress. Ultimately, the sexual battery case was dropped two years later. Usher denied the claims unabashedly.

While Sharpton's case was dropped, things turned out slightly differently for another accuser, Laura Helm. Helm's case was also dropped, but with a twist — reports state the pair reached an "amicable resolution" with many speculating Usher agreed to a financial settlement in order to close the door on it for good. 

His son was diagnosed with a life-changing condition

It can't be denied that Usher has faced some serious uphill battles as a parent. After losing his stepson Kile Glover in a freak accident and his son, Usher Raymond V, having his own brush with death, you would think anything else pales in comparison. However, when you throw a lifelong health battle into the mix, things get a little more complicated. Usher Raymond V, affectionately known as Cinco, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a child. The singer opened up to People about his son's condition back in 2023, explaining that it was difficult for everyone involved.

"From the moment that Type 1 diabetes was a conversation, it was a re-acclimation to life. The life that we knew changed," he confessed, adding that his main goal was to focus on ensuring his child lived a happy and healthy life. Of course, keeping that goal straight can't be easy when you're co-parenting with someone who has taken you to court for custody twice before. Usher explained that it wasn't exactly smooth. "It's been a task. It is very complicated because kids, by the way, will find a way to work you against each other. You have to be mindful of what you say and that they're always listening and greater than that. They're always watching."

It sounds like an ever-evolving process, but Usher doesn't play when it comes to his kids. Given everything he's been through, who can blame him?

Usher married his manager, but it went up in flames

If you thought Usher's love life couldn't get any more tumultuous, then you're in for a surprise. By 2015, Usher had been with longtime girlfriend (who also happened to be his manager) Grace Miguel, for 7 years. They seemed to be going the distance, officially tying the knot in 2015. A source told E! News at the time, "They are extremely happy and the way it was done was very sweet and romantic." However, history repeated itself when the marriage proved to be short-lived. In 2018, the couple released a joint statement telling fans of their separation, but assuring them that they remained loving friends.

A few months later, the singer filed for divorce and that was all she wrote. While this split seemed to be a darn sight more amicable than the demise of Usher's first marriage to Tameka Foster, it cemented Usher's status as the king of love songs, but the jester of romance. The R&B sensation hasn't publicly commented on the reasons behind the divorce, but it didn't take him long to move on.

In 2020, he welcomed another son, Sovereign Bo, with his girlfriend, Jenn Goicoechea. They welcomed another son, Sire, a year later. Let's just hope this union proves to be the one that sticks, though history might lead us to suspect otherwise.