On Tuesday, November 16, 2004, Aretha Franklin showed why she was an unparalleled entertainer.
She shared the Robinson stage with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. The ASO brought Miss Franklin to town as part of the festivities surrounding the opening of the presidential library. Long a favorite of the Clintons, Miss Franklin sang at his 1993 inaugural festivities the night before he took the oath of office.
Resplendent in a series of white dresses, Miss Franklin was in top form feeding off the love from the audience. While backstage she may have been dealing with back and knee issues (which I saw first hand), when she stepped on to the stage she was giving her all as she rolled through hit after hit from her starry career. She sang, she played the piano, she entertained!
It was a sold out house and her voice and energy reached the last row of the balcony.
Prior to her appearance, the ASO played a few selections including variations on “Hail to the Chief” and “America.”
Earlier in the day, I had the chance to meet her. The ASO had contacted me to see if I could pick up three copies of Bill Clinton’s autobiography for her to have him sign. I was out and about on Clinton Library-related errands that day, so I happily obliged. I picked up three copies and delivered them to Robinson Center. Miss Franklin was on a break in between rehearsals and was about to be interviewed by Craig O’Neill for KTHV. I only got to shake her hand and briefly say hello, but I could tell she was thrilled to receive the books.
I obviously did not ask to be reimbursed for the expense. The chance to spend a few seconds with her was payment enough.