December 6th 2015 11PM Kennedy Center

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Aretha Franklin, Performing in the Kennedy Center Opera House December 6, 2015

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The John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is a massive building on the Potomac River containing nine theaters.

By Gavin Edwards\ New York Times


In her final decade, Aretha Franklin’s two best-loved performances both took place in Washington. In 2009, she graced Barack Obama’s inauguration with a gorgeous “My Country, ’Tis of Thee” while wearing a hat so remarkable it ended up on display in the Smithsonian on Dec. 6, 2015, she sang an unforgettable rendition of her own anthem of rebirth, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” in tribute to the song’s co-writer, Carole King, who was receiving the Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime achievement alongside Rita Moreno, Cicely Tyson and other luminaries.

The 1967 single is sensual and spiritual; after 48 years, Ms. Franklin felt it more deeply than ever. It was a showstopper at the Kennedy Center — and on internet browsers everywhere. Soon after, Elton John told The Times that he had been watching the “Natural Woman” clip over and over. “I will definitely, when I’m 75, be having a fur coat like that, and coming in with a clutch bag, too,” Mr. John promised. “And throwing my coat off. And in a fishtail dress.”

We spoke with performers, guests and others who were at the Kennedy Center that night about their memories of Ms. Franklin’s soaring performance. These are edited excerpts from the conversations.


RICKEY MINOR, musical director of the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony The producers were interested in Aretha — her doing “Natural Woman” was kind of a no-brainer — and I knew that she attended the Kennedy Center Honors every year, sitting in the audience to celebrate the honorees.


DEBORAH F. RUTTER, president of the Kennedy Center Aretha received her Kennedy Center Honor in 1994, at a time when most Honors recipients were at or nearing the end of their careers. That she continued performing and producing new work for the next two decades is a testament to a talent that transcends age and time.

GLENN WEISS, executive producer and director of the Honors ceremony There was a big back and forth before Aretha agreed to perform, but the song was such a huge iconic thing in her life. I think it was important for her to be there.

CHILINA KENNEDY, who has played Carole King in the Broadway musical “Beautiful” and appeared in the Kennedy Center Honors tribute I’d heard the story of how Carole and Gerry [Goffin] had written the song for Aretha: they were walking down Broadway and [producer] Jerry Wexler pulled up in his limo and rolled down the window and said, “Hey, I want you guys to write a song called ‘Natural Woman.’”

MINOR With Aretha, you need to be bendable and not breakable. It was going to be just her with the orchestra, but she made a call and said, “Hey, I have a way that I do this song with my background singers.” Everyone needs what they need to be comfortable.

WEISS She always walks onstage with her purse. When we were in rehearsals, she walks out and puts it on the piano. When she walks downstage, she picks it up and puts it on the floor. The show ends with everyone in the tribute downstage singing “I Feel the Earth Move.” In rehearsal, there’s a line of people in street clothes — her, James Taylor, Sara Bareilles, Janelle Monáe — and this one bag sitting in the middle of the stage. When we finished the song, James Taylor leaned over to pick up the bag and hand it to her, being a gentleman, and reflexively she almost pushed him away.

WEISS Traditionally the honorees go to the White House for a reception, and then they go back to the Kennedy Center, the president comes, and the show starts. Unfortunately, that weekend the San Bernardino shooting happened. We were told by the White House that the president is addressing the nation at 8 o’clock, and we’re scheduled to start at 7:30. The night was a bit of a roller coaster and maybe a little emotional, but the president came to us at intermission.

MINOR I always welcome everybody before the show and thank them for coming, because I probably won’t see them after the show. I knocked on Aretha’s door — she’ll make you wait, you won’t just walk in there. There were a lot of people in there — hair and makeup, she was getting ready — but she was in a great mood.

KENNEDY For the 11 o’clock number of the Carole King section, I introduced her, said, “Aretha Franklin!” and people freaked out.

MINOR The honorees don’t know who’s performing for them.

KENNEDY Carole was losing her mind, Obama was losing his mind, everyone was going wild. I was standing in the wings with James Taylor, who was just as excited to see what was going to happen.

JAMES TAYLOR To me, Aretha is the ultimate — not that it’s a competition. She didn’t open her mouth unless what came out was brilliant.

KENNEDY Out she walks with her fur coat and her purse; she whacks the purse on the piano and sits down. They cut this part out of the segment that went to air, but she did a few scales, taking her time getting ready, and then all of a sudden she hits that first note, “Looking out on the morning,” and it was the most unbelievable performance I had ever seen.

MINOR Carole just kept saying, “Oh my God, oh my God,” and holding her head. She had never seen Aretha play piano and sing her song. Lots of people don’t know that Aretha plays piano, but if you want to get her true sound, you need her playing. Vocally she knows where she’s going, so she can lead herself into that on piano. She’s got more movement in certain places than most pianists would. That teaches her rhythm section to get out of the way, to support her and not dictate how the song goes.

WEISS It’s a roomful of people who have seen a lot of artists over the years, but not a lot of people have seen Aretha sitting down at a piano.

KENNEDY I couldn’t believe what was coming out of her mouth. She got up from the piano, walked downstage, and dropped her fur coat in the middle of the stage.

RITA MORENO, Kennedy Center honoree: The moment she “casually” dropped her massive mink coat onto the stage was one for the ages.

MINOR I was playing bass right behind her. When she dropped that jacket, I almost dropped my bass. It was so in the moment — I don’t think she planned it.


ARETHA FRANKLIN (speaking with in 2016) I wasn’t sure about the air factor onstage, and air can mess with the voice from time to time. And I didn’t want to have that problem that evening. It’s been a long time since I’ve done Kennedy Center, and I wanted to have a peerless performance. Once I determined that the air was all right while I was singing, I said, “Let’s get out of this coat! I’m feeling it. Let’s go!”

WEISS Of all the television I’ve done, and there’s been a lot, this was one of the most viral clips. I was in the TV truck, in the loading dock behind the stage, watching the monitors for the 14 cameras. Not only was I seeing what was going on, but I’m seeing reactions in the crowd, and I’m making choices of what’s going to go on the air. There was such electricity in the room — part of it might be because of how moved Carole King was. During that show, a lot of the audience will look to see how the honoree responds. When something like this happens, all your plans go out the window and you’re capturing the live moments: the audience gets up on their feet and the president is wiping a tear from his eye.

TAYLOR She was in excellent form and in excellent voice. She was also funny and wry and with it — I thought she would be with us another 10 years.

MORENO She brought a prodigious talent, musicality, and down stompin’ woman’s sass to all she does.

CICELY TYSON, Kennedy Center honoree She had the most beautiful face. You could see her emotions in her face as well as hear them in her voice. It was no surprise when the audience stood up — you can’t sit and listen to her and not be moved. After she finished, she came off the stage and she had a huge bouquet of flowers. She walked up the aisle and an audience member joked, “Are those for me?” She said, “I’m sorry, they’re for my lady,” and she brought them right to me and put them in my arms.

KENNEDY She was up in the stratosphere with those riffs, but every cell of her being seemed to be in the music. There was nothing else, just her and the song. That’s what we try to do as artists — we try to get to where she was that night.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page C4 of the New York edition with the headline: When ‘A Natural Woman’ Blew the Roof Off.

It Ain’t Over Until The Queen say’s its over and M’s Franklin say’s it Ain’t ovah! right Dionne?

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The Queen of Soul is coming out swinging against the fellow legend, accusing her of making up a story that she was Whitney Houston’s godmother, even though the alleged offense happened five years ago at Houston’s funeral.

“She blatantly lied on me … fully well knowing what she was doing,” Aretha Franklin said in a phone interview.

Franklin called The Associated Press on Tuesday, after sending a lengthy fax the day before, to address what she claimed was a “libelous” statement against her made five years ago at Houston’s funeral. At the time, Warwick told funeral-goers that Franklin was there and introduced her, but then realized she wasn’t in attendance.

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Fantasia, A Diamond in a dollar store

Ten years ago, the world discovered Fantasia Monique Barrino on American Idol.  She was the contestant with the 100 watt smile. Her smile and personality is infectious she has the rare ability to make the audience feel is if they were in her home.

Fantasia’s performance of Summertime was named amongst AOL’s 2004 list of greatest television moments.  Randy Jackson has called it the best performance in the show’s history. Simon Cowell remarked that she was the best contestant to ever compete in any competition, including the more than seventy Idol champions crowned nationally and internationally since the show began its first global incarnations.

On May 26, 2004 over 65 million votes were cast in order to determine the winner of American Idol.  It wasn’t close, Fantasia  defeated runner-up Diana DeGarmo by 1.3 million votes.


The nineteen year old girl from High Point, North Carolina made an impression.  Fantasia could have come in fourth in the competition and  it would not have mattered.  It seemed everyone wanted to work with her.

She signed with J Records(now RCA) and 19 Entertainment . In June 2004, her first single , “I Believe”, was released. It  debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. This number-one debut made Fantasia the first artist in history to achieve this with a first single.  On the sales chart, the single spent eleven consecutive weeks at number one, giving it the longest consecutive stay on top of that chart for an American Idol contestant. The CD single, “I Believe”, went on to become the top selling single of 2004 in the U.S., and has since been certified double platinum by the CRIA. Barrino also won three Billboard Music Awards for the single. High Point, North Carolina

Her first album Free Yourself, dropped in November 2004. It debuted at number eight on the Billboard 200, selling 240,000 copies in its first week.  “Free Yourself” sold more than two million copies worldwide and was certified Platinum in the U.S.  Fantasia was the first artist of any kind to simultaneously hold the top two spots of the top three on Billboard’s Hot Adult R&B Airplay . Her single, “Truth Is” spent fourteen weeks at the number one position.  She was named the number-one artist of the Adult Urban Contemporary format for 2005.

Go to Girl

Fantasia appeal is generational.  Your grandmother may not be familiar with Nicki Minaj but she has  heard of Fantasia.   Her performances have moved many veteran performers .

Her performance appeared to move Elton John at the 2004 Kennedy Center Honors

Not enough cameras…..  Diana Ross, and the audience she owned. 2006 UNICEF Tribute to Stevie Wonder

In April 2007 , Fantasia took the role of Celie in the play “The Color Purple.

While playing the role, Fantasia earned rave reviews for her performance.  The New York Times critic Charles Isherwood said:  She’s pretty terrific. So terrific that this earnest but mechanical musical is more effective and affecting than it was when it yawned open a year and a half ago at the Broadway Theater. In the central role of the downtrodden Celie, whose long trudge to emotional fulfillment the musical traces, Fantasia exudes a sweetness, simplicity and honesty that gives it a core of authentic feeling.

New York Post critic Clive Barnes said, “… there is some elemental quality to Fantasia that is either greatness or something close to it.”

Fantasia was initially scheduled for a limited six-month engagement ending in October 2007 but had her run extended until January 6, 2008. The Color Purple box office saw a thirty-four-million-dollar jump in sales since  she started in the show, a third of the play’s 100 million dollar earning since its debut in 2005.

The New York Post reported that she missed nearly fifty performances in the show, causing the producers to give back tens of thousands of dollars in refunds. In the September 2008 issue of Sister 2 Sister magazine, Barrino revealed that the reason for her absences in The Color Purple was because of the development of a cyst on her vocal cords. She was ordered to immediately undergo surgery which later revealed that she in fact had a tumor on her vocal cords.

Tasia rocked Aretha, Chaka Kahn and slayed Patti LaBelle in 2009. The following video is one of my all time favorites.  Tasia performance (3.37) of Lady Marmalade transported Patti to another place.


Too Much Talent for one box?  

Well before the 2004 American Idol season ended, there were many veterans artist and producers wanting to work with Tasia. Her roots where in Gospel, she could sing Rock, Jazz and R&B.   Unfortunately, the music industry demands you choose a box.  If your a Gospel singer, a R&B record could alienate your fans.

Fantasia signed with Simon Fuller’s 19 Entertainment and J Records.  The company which produces the show and is said to force heavy contracts on top “Idol” finalists.

In 2008, Fantasia was dropped from 19 Entertainment because of creative differences.

Former contestants Clay Aiken, Mario Vasquez and Kelly Clarkson resorted to hiring high-powered attorneys to get out of their ironclad contracts with 19 Entertainment. Most of their discontent had to do with the company’s manager, Simon Fuller.

Her first performance on American Idol after signing with J Records was a disaster.  She  came out in a wifebeater and tight shorts.  Her haircolor had a strange tint to it.  The dancing was manic she disappeared into some seconded rate hoohy show ,she really didn’t look well. The Look on Cowells face was priceless WTF?

A Diamond in a Dollar Store

Fantasia is a force, she is a natural performer with outstanding musical instincts.  In short time she has earned the respect of veteran performers.

While she has had some successful songs, most of the music in my opinion is beneath her.  A lot of the music sound alike, and I believe the songs chosen for her limits her appeal.

The issue is management.

Fantasia needs a manager, producer someone who can utilize her natural ability and broaden her appeal.  As Clive Davis did for Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin.

Tasia isn’t Beyonce, who is an extremely talented performer.  Tasia is an entertainer., while I’m not sure if Beyonce will be here when she is 50’s as there are a few Aretha’s, Madonna’s, Cher’s Dionne Warwick’s and Patti LeBelle’s.  I do believe Tasia will be.








Donna Summer ” She is simply hot Stuff”

Sittin’ here eatin’ my heart out waitin- Waitin’ for some lover to call – Dialed about a thousand numbers lately- Almost rang the phone off the wall-  Lookin’ for some hot stuff baby this evenin’
I need some hot stuff baby tonight- I want some hot stuff baby this evenin -‘ Gotta have some hot stuff Gotta have some lovin’ tonight- I need hot stuff- I want some hot stuff-I need some hot stuff

Lookin’ for a lover who needs another-Don’t want another night on my own-Want to share my love with a warm blooded lover-Want to bring a wild man back home- Sittin’ here eatin’ my heart out, no reason-Don’t spend another night on my own-I dialed about a hundred numbers baby
I’m bound to find somebody home

If you remember this song when it first hit the airways , I need you to remove all food’s from your mouth before the next sentence.

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That was THIRTY TWO YEARS ago.    She won a Grammy (1980’s  Best Rock Vocal Performance-Female) and that’s the year I became a fan.

Donna was already a star by then, however, I wasn’t a fan.  Turned off by one of her signature songs “Love to Love you baby” I didn’t think much of her singing voice.  In fact, I didn’t like much what she was doing during when she was under contract with Casablanca Records.   Yes Last Dance was a good record, but I thought it was fluke.

Suddenly there was Hot Stuff, and her attack and delivery of those lyrics…I was fan.   I own three copies of the Bad Girls double album (yes a record) its a large vinyl thing with grooves and you play it on a wind up Victrola.  (Google it)

There are many self proclaimed Disco Queens, many one hit wonders, but Donna is the Queen selling nearly 130 million albums worldwide.

When Disco faded, it ended the careers of many. While Donna’s career slowed it  was far from over.  Donna’ roots were in the church and inspirational songs can be found on some of her later albums .  In  1982  she was a Grammy nominee for– Best Inspirational PerformanceI Believe in Jesus. This is her version of Riding through the Storm.

The music industry is filled with vampires , Casablanca wanted the Disco Donna, Donna wanted to branch into other musical styles… unable to reach a middle ground she left Casablanca for Geffen Records.


Donna was unable to duplicate the successes and previous sales at Casablanca.  While at Geffen Donna learned she still owed Casablanca an album.   The album “She Works Hard For The Money” was one of her all time best selling albums.     None of her Geffen sales came close.

A couple from the Geffen Years

Donna Summer was the first African American female to have a video on MTV in heavy rotation.

Singer,Writer, Actress, Painter, and Grandmother of four,LaDonna Adrian Gaines from Dorchester, Massachusetts belongs to an élite group of American singers  Aretha, Gladys,Patti, and Tina with recording and performing careers of three decades or more.

Donna’s last tour (Crayons) was in 2008.

There are rumors of an album of Standards….  (We’re Waiting)

Home is Nashville, Tennessee.

If your in New York, her next scheduled performance is in East Hampton,New York at the Bay Street Theater on the 5th of July.

This is one of her last filmed performances (Dec 2009) at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway honoring President Obama.  Behind her is the Norwegian Radio Orchestra.

She was 60 at the time of this KILLER performance (notice the face of the conductor). So Beyonc’e, Gaga, Adele and all the other contenders who will rise and fall.  Donna Summer is the real thing, she’s been hott stuff for nearly 40 years… and she’s not cooling down anytime soon.


UPDATE: Donna Summer Died Today (May 17, 2012)

We know there is a BIG Disco ball in Heaven