In the radio and music industry, June is considered Black Music Month, and in honor of that, NY1's Dean Meminger is profiling several music legends in his series Soul's Survivors. First up is a member of R&B royalty, the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.
Feeling the spirit on stage, Aretha Franklin recently returned to her gospel music roots, singing at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Her performance was a part of Gospelfest.
Gospel music is where it all started for Aretha more than 60 years ago. NY1 caught with her after the show.
Q: How does it feel returning to your gospel roots?
A: Right at home, right at home. Back on the old landmark, on the old camp ground.
As a little girl, she was playing piano and singing in her father's Detroit church. She appeared on gospel records as a young teenager.
Her unique and powerful sound led her to soul music. She was one of the first to successfully use the gospel feel and cross it over to R&B, or soul music. It didn't take long for her to be crowned the Queen of Soul, an honor she still holds.
Franklin was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She's won 18 Grammy awards and has a legion of fans that can feel her music in their souls.
Now, at 71 years old, she said it's time to tell her story on the big screen in a biopic. She's in the early stages of that project.
Q: So you're meeting with a lot of folks, talking about telling your life story, and you're involved with telling your life story in this movie. How important is that for you?
A: It is important, because the creative control and being able to name who it is I want to portray the characters that I want to portray means everything.
Q: Did you live on 88th Street?
A: I sure did. Right off Fifth Avenue, between Fifth and Madison.
Q: What's that specialness in your heart when it comes to New York?
A: Right in the middle of the block there, a brownstone. I went back, I planted a little tree there before I left, and now it's big and blooming and towering over the brownstone that I had.
Over the last few years, there's been some serious health concerns for Franklin. Now, she has slimmed down and is cutting back on performing.
Q: You were up there, you were moving. How are you feeling?
A: I'm feeling very well, thank you.
Gospelfest also turned into an occasion for Aretha to catch up briefly with an old friend, gospel legend Cissy Houston, the mother of Whitney Houston. The ladies were still at the arena after midnight.
Q: It's kind of late, and you guys are still out performing. What's going on?
Houston: We don't know.
Franklin: This is what we do.
Q: How did it feel for you guys to be performing tonight together with some of the biggest names in the business currently, and you're up there with them, having the crowd go at it?
Franklin: We go back a long way, and both of us come from the church, so we were right at home. We were right at home.