Two days before the Clinton Presidential Center opened, at Robinson Center Music Hall, patrons were warmed by the musical talents of Aretha Franklin.
She shared the Robinson stage with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. The ASO brough 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 the Culture Vulture 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.
Born in Memphis, she moved to Detroit before age five and grew up singing at church. After gaining some fame singing gospel songs, at 18 she switched to more secular music. After initially singing for Columbia Records, she moved to Atlantic Records, later to Arista, and now has her own label.
Among her hits are “Respect,” “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools,” “Think,” “Share Your love with Me,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Spanish Harlem,” “Break It to Me Gently,” “Jump to It,” “Get It Right,” and “Freeway of Love.”
Franklin received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1979 and became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. NARAS awarded her a Grammy Legend Award in 1991, then the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994, the same year she was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1994. In 1999, she received the National Medal of Arts from Bill Clinton. George W. Bush bestowed her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. She has 17 Grammy Awards and 14 additional nominations.