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The DIVA series
Curated by Executive Director Susan Scott
MC48 – Aretha Franklin – Soul
Aretha Franklin (1942-2018)
When is a diva more than a diva? When she’s also a Queen . . . of Soul, Gospel and even Rock ‘n Roll, where in 1987, she was the first woman inducted into that Hall of Fame.
Aretha was a prodigy, singing and playing piano at an early age. Like most divas in this series, singing in church figured large in her development and for Aretha, it was her Pastor-daddy’s church and she performed with his traveling revival show too. She is one of the most honored artists in Grammy history and Elton John says she influenced everybody!
What I want to focus on is her complete Diva performance at the Kennedy Center in 2015 in honor of songwriter/singer Carole King, one of the night’s honorees. Apparently honorees do not know who is appearing on their behalf. Aretha comes out wearing a massive fur coat and carrying her purse (just like another Queen). She drops the purse on stage, sits down at the piano – cut to video of Carole King, giddy and beside herself with surprise. Aretha starts to sing “(Like a) Natural Woman” and she is in great voice. At some point, she stands, drops the coat on the floor and continues to sing. It is a magnificent, emotional, legendary performance. I’m at home crying, the President is in his box crying, the crowd is on its feet. An unforgettable performance.
Aretha, who had been unwell, explained later that she wore the coat to protect her voice in case it was cold or drafty on stage, but it wasn’t, so she dropped it.
Aretha had won her own Kennedy Center honor twenty years earlier, in 1994. A Kennedy Center producer remarked that most often the awards went to great artists in the twilight of their careers – not so with Aretha. After her honor and despite health issues, she continued to fill the next two decades with memorable song-writing and performances – none more so than the one she delivered for Carole King, our MC-48 selection.
If you’re familiar with this performance, I know you’ll be happy to see it again. If you’re not, it is my great pleasure to present it to you. Let me know what you think.
Music Connects is going on hiatus for a little while and for an excellent reason. We are presenting a LIVE, 100% vaccinated festival on July 23-25– hurrah – and there is a lot to do!! Look for a Save the Date with artists and other details on Tuesday; ticket sales commence June 1st.
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