Aretha Franklin was a music legend, who passed away in August 2018, after battling pancreatic cancer. She died at the age of 76 and had a grand, televised funeral, featuring singers and stars including Ariana Grande, former President Bill Clinton, and Stevie Wonder. Some of the performers from her funeral, along with other Grammy winners and music artists, are participants in a major tribute event for Franklin, titled Aretha! A Grammy Celebration for the Queen of Soul. The concert will air tonight, on March 10, 2019 and it is a pre-taped event. Tyler Perry is the host and the event will air from 9 – 11 p.m. ET/PT and 8 – 10 p.m. CT. Read on below for a rundown on who is performing, what their performances are, and other celebrity appearances.
Aretha Franklin Tribute Performers
Jennifer Hudson is one of the major stars taking the stage to honor Aretha Franklin and she will be performing a medley that features Franklin’s famous “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.” Hudson also performed at Franklin’s funeral. And, if that weren’t enough, she is set to star as Franklin in the movie Respect, which chronicles the life of Franklin. Deadline reported that Franklin actually hand-picked Hudson for the role, prior to her death. The film will hit movie theaters on August 14, 2020.
Harvey Mason Jr., the producer of Respect, compared Franklin and Hudson to Free Press saying, “They both sing with a lot of emotion. They both sing with a lot of range and power. It’s really hard to compare anyone with Aretha, though. I think the good thing about Jennifer is that was Aretha’s pick to play her … There was a lot of discussion about a lot of people, but Aretha was adamant that it be Jennifer.”
Other performers participating in the event include John Legend, Alicia Keys, SZA, Kelly Clarkson, Chloe X Halle, Common, Bebe Winans, Shirley Caesar, Patti LaBelle, Janelle Monae, H.E.R., Brandi Carlile, Alessia Cara, and Celine Dion. Both Legend and Clarkson are currently coaches on The Voice, and Keys is a former coach on the show as well.
Backstage at the event, Dion reportedly told the Recording Academy that, “Whoever believes that music comes from the soul has a part of her. We’ve been singing her, we’ve been feeling her. She has been showing us, all of us, how things are being done and no one will ever be doing that again.”
When it comes to what songs were involved in the performances, NBC News reported that “A Change is Gonna Come” was executed by Celine Dion, and Patti LaBelle performed “Call Me” with a house band led by music director Rickey Minor. Fantasia, Andra Day, Brandi Carlile and Alessia Cara joined forces to deliver a collaborative performance of “Natural Woman”. Meanwhile, Common joined Yolanda Adams to perform “(To Be) Young, Gifted and Black”. Keys and SZA also delivered a duet, performing “Day Dreaming”.
Entertainment mogul Clive Davis was a longtime friend of Aretha Franklin, as was legendary music artist Smokey Robinson. Both make appearances during the concert special and Davis is one of the producers of the event.