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"Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin Dead at 76. Aired 11:30a-12n ET

Aired August 16, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] BOLDUAN: What do you think her lasting impact will be on not just civil rights but being a voice of a generation, being the voice for so many people?

JESSE JACKSON SR, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST (via telephone): As for music, Aretha would have an annual revival at the home church, top ministers who would do revivals. She never left the church. There was her roots. An annual Christmas party here in Detroit. Aretha's last event was with Elton John for victims of AID, fighting to free Mandela. She had a sense of social justice. She sang before the pope in Philadelphia last year, before presidents. She never lost her common touch.

BOLDUAN: Reverend, she touched so many lives. Friend of yours.

I appreciate you in this moment of mourning to come on and share with me, Reverend. Thank you.

JACKSON: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: We will continue to celebrate Aretha Franklin, the life and the legacy. Dead at the age of 76.

We will be back right after this.



[11:36:07] (SINGING)


BOLDUAN: Just another one of the beautiful moments of Aretha Franklin and -- what do we even say? Hundreds, thousands of performances she has offered the country, the world in her lifetime as we celebrate her life and legacy as she has passed this morning surrounded by family and friends at her home in Detroit.

The tributes, of course, are pouring in. We are bringing you as many as we can. This one from Paul McCartney, just out: "Let's take a moment to give thanks for the beautiful life of Aretha Franklin, the queen of our souls, who inspired us all for many, many years. She will be missed but the memory of her greatness as a musician and a fine human being will live with us forever. Love, Paul." A sweet sentiment from a great man in his own right, Paul McCartney.

Joining me Lauren Onkey. She's the senior director of NPR Music. She's joining me right now.

Lauren, thank you for joining me.

You also -- when Aretha Franklin became the first woman inducted into the Rock "N" Roll Hall of Fame, you were there. You produced that induction ceremony. Talk to me about that, please.

LAUREN ONKEY, SENIOR DIRECTOR, NPR MUSIC: Thanks. I didn't produce the ceremony that inducted her in '87. But at the Rock "N" Roll Hall of Fame, we put a tribute on to her in 2011 and honored her as American music master. I had the privilege of leading the team that put that together. She attended and was part of the celebration. I will never forget it.

BOLDUAN: Tell me what you won't forget about that.

ONKEY: The quality of the performances by the people who honored her, people like Dennis Edwards of the Temptations, Ron Isaacs, Cissy Houston who sang backup with Aretha for years. We had Eric Holder there who wanted to attend as a guest, the attorney general, that was so reflective of Aretha's civil rights impact and commitments which so many of the guests this morning have talked about. She attended and watched the show. She hadn't planned to perform. She came up at the end of the night and, after seeing so many people sing her music, the great gospel star, Trudy Clark, who represented Aretha's gospel years so well, Aretha said, I would like a piano. She wanted to come out and take the stage and wreck the house like she always does. She did an incredible version of "A Song for You," which she had made her own.

But one of your guests commented earlier, it might have been Peabo, about her awareness on stage of what she wanted and how the song was arranged. Something like that, something impromptu, she knew what piano she wanted, what mic she wanted. It was really remarkable. The backing band included people like Spooner Olden, who played on the first -- her first hit with Atlantic, "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You." He was there in the house band. It was a great gathering. The significance of her impact over generations and across genres, really important.

The other thing I want to share about seeing her up close was just as a reminder of what a brilliant pianist she is. She learned to play in the church. As an accompaniment to other players -- folks will listen over the next few days. Here at NPR Music, we are sharing play lists and analysis of her work. When you listen, listen to the piano fills, the piano intros. That's a part of her genius that this week I think gives us a chance to remember.

[11:40:12] BOLDUAN: I will listen with a different ear.

I really appreciate that, Lauren. Thank you so much for joining me.

ONKEY: Thank you. BOLDUAN: Really appreciate it.

I want to bring this in as we are talking about tributes and all of the big names paying tribute to Aretha Franklin. President Trump has tweeted about Aretha Franklin: "The queen of soul, Aretha Franklin, is dead. She was a great woman with a wonderful gift from God, her voice. She will be missed."

The president sharing in the sentiment that so many people are feeling at this moment.

We will continue to celebrate the woman, the legend, after a quick break.






[11:45:36] (SINGING)


BOLDUAN: Her voice, the soundtrack for multiple generations. Aretha Franklin, the queen of soul, has passed. Surrounded by family and friends in Detroit after a battle with pancreatic cancer. We are celebrating her life, we are celebrating her music, her beautiful music, and mourning her death this morning.

I will take you back to Detroit right now. Ryan Young is standing by at the Franklin family longtime church.

Hi, there, Ryan.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello. Music that touched generations and another musician is here with me, Leon Jones.

You said you had so many interactions with Aretha over the years. What stood out with you about those interactions with you from time to time?

LEON JONES, MUSICIAN: The thing that stood out to me is that the level of notoriety that she acquired, she was still accessible to the common person. That was indicated in her annual dinner and celebration that she had for the common man, when she called an artist -- gospel artist, secular artists and provide dinner for those folks on Aretha.

YOUNG: What's that like as a longtime Detroit resident? What was it like to have Aretha around and never leave the city. JONES: As I mentioned to you off camera, that's common to Detroit.

Detroit is a music town. Most artists or celebrities, they never forget where they come from.

YOUNG: Thank you, Leon, so much.

Kate, back to you. I know we are short on time. You can see the impact she had on the city.

BOLDUAN: Thank Leon for sharing with us.

Everyone's tribute is important today. Even when death is expected, it's still -- it can hurt the same. Aretha Franklin, we will continue to celebrate the queen of soul after a quick break.






[11:52:45] (SINGING)


BOLDUAN: Aretha Franklin, the legend, right there. This is a picture of the Apollo Theater changing its marquee in her honor. Aretha Franklin, she's home. The queen of soul has passed at the age of 76. We continue to celebrate her life, her influence, her impact on this day.

Cori Murray, entertainment director of "Essence" magazine, is joining me now.

Cori, thank you for coming in.


BOLDUAN: I was just reading through the obituary that "Essence" has been putting out. I cannot say it better than what you all wrote. So I want to read it to our viewers with you" " The queen of soul did more than just supply the sound track of her generation and beyond. In fact, her music, her voice was and shall remain woven into the tapestry of our culture. She was the gold standard, and she will always be our queen."

Your thoughts right now, Cori?

MURRAY: I mean, I'll admit, any time we've lost an icon, I immediately call my mother. It was my mother who introduced me to Aretha Franklin. I remember growing up, we had the "Amazing Grace" album like propped up in our house at all times. So right now, she really is -- I mean, it's a legend. I've cried. I'm having chills right now thinking about this woman gave us six decades of her life, and she really is -- and I know this term gets thrown around a lot, but Aretha Franklin really was a sound track to our lives. You're talking multi-generations of people who have an entry point into Aretha. You know, it's kind of -- you immediately started to think, well, who else is going to give you that? Thankfully, Aretha gave us that, thankfully.

BOLDUAN: And as "Essence" points out, she served as the foundation for so many amazing artists after her. The impact, her influence on other female artists, I mean, artists no matter their sex, gender, race, anything, but for especially female artists. What do you think it is?

[11:55:12] MURRAY: I think that is perfectly true. I immediately think of Mary J. Blige. The first time we heard Mary -- and I know she hates this -- it's like that pain you hear in her voice, but we immediately connect that to Aretha. When Aretha sang, she emoted the feelings she gave. It always made you sort of sit and pause. Coming over here today, one of my favorite songs by her is "I've Never Loved a Man." It's really, at the end, when she crescendos and you just feel it, she gave it to you every time she performed that song. Aretha really is the bar for all other singers. If you can meet Aretha -- and not many can, but you have to attempt to get to that level -- then I think you can be considered the type of singer and artist that Aretha was. So many people have called on her, and not just R&B, but gospel. You're playing it right now in the background, but her gospel music touched so many people.

BOLDUAN: Her collaborations, her friendships with other artists, with the every man. We were just talking to a man in Detroit who was saying how it meant so much she stayed there. It seems to span so much.

MURRAY: I mean, we loved her. We were talking about it in the office at "Essence." It's all these accolades that Aretha has, but she was also still a beautiful, every day woman who brought her pocketbook everywhere. She didn't even call it a purse. There's been times where she's performed at the piano, and her hair may be askew and she doesn't even care because she's giving of herself as an artist. She just was so relatable. I loved that she stayed true to herself every moment of her career. It was never a time where you said, oh, Aretha is trying to change to adapt to what's popular. That was never her. Aretha was always Aretha Franklin.

BOLDUAN: She set the bar and everyone adapted to her. She was the bar.


BOLDUAN: Cori, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

MURRAY: You're welcome.

BOLDUAN: We continue to celebrate the life of Aretha Franklin after this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)





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