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Aretha Franklin is recovered, ready for Detroit show and new album
Time has been great medicine for Aretha Franklin.
And now the Queen of Soul -- who had to cancel several summer shows this year, including a planned stop at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, due to an unspecified medical condition -- is ready to celebrate the holidays at home.
"I'm feeling well and I'm r-r-ready to go," the 71-year-old Bloomfield Hills resident, the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, says after her first rehearsal at the Motor City Casino Hotel's SoundBoard, where she plays this weekend. "I've been waiting to do this, but unfortunately it just wasn't possible with my treatments."
Franklin promises that she has "a lot of lovely surprises and things that are going to be happening" for the show, her first in the metro area since June of 2012. She'll be singing with a choir and will includes some holiday music in the mix, as well as enduring favorites drawn from a list that includes hits such as "Respect," "Chain of Fools," "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," "Freeway of Love" and others that have netted her 18 Grammy Awards.
"I wish I had a seat in the audience to see it," Franklin cracks. "I'd love to see it like that, too."
Franklin will be home for the holidays -- but she's not planning an extended period of rest. There's work to be done.
On New Year's Day she plans to begin recording a new album, her first since the self-released "Aretha: A Woman Falling Out of Love" in 2011 and a project that reunites her with Clive Davis, her chief aide de camp on 80s smashes such as "Jump To It," "Who's Zoomin' Who?" and "Aretha." He, in turn, enlisted producers Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Detroit native Don Was, who are currently recording instrumental tracks for the set -- which will find Franklin singing interpretations of 10 songs made famous by other female singers, including Barbra Streisand's "People," Donna Summer's "Last Dance" and maybe, she says, Destiny's Child's "Bootylicious."
"It's just re-working some things that were very, very good and certainly chartworthy and sold a lot of records," Franklin says of the collection. "They're records that, musically, I respected and that I liked a lot and that I would love to have one go-'round with.
"I aspire for musical excellence. I have very high standards where music is concerned, and I'm looking for something I haven't done, something that you haven't heard and something just absolutely smashing."
Franklin, who compiled the album's song list with Davis, says he's confident her producers will meet those expectations. "I know for certain Mr. Davis would not have asked them to if they couldn't do the job," she says. "We all have a great deal of respect for each other." And she's particularly intrigued to be working with Was, the Was (Not Was) co-founder who has a formidable, Grammy-winning pedigree.
"I just met him and learned about the things that he's been doing with Bonnie Raitt and the Rolling Stones and all the people that he's been working with," Franklin says. "Each person that I spoke with about him had nothing but good things to say about him and a lot of praise and admiration."
Franklin hopes to have album out during the spring, and she's already eyeballing a number of live performances for the new year, starting with a June 17-18 stand at Radio City Music Hall on Jan. 17-18 and going on to Atlantic City in March as well as Toronto and make-ups for canceled shows in Montreal and Ottawa. She's also looking for a distribution deal for her Aretha's Records label, which will be putting out albums by her son Kecalf, a Christian rapper, and grandson Jordan, a pop singer.
"Everything I do...it's about the joy and the love of the music. That's all it's about," Franklin notes. "It's what I love and what I'm most passionate about - other than my family. And what could be better? Music makes the world go around, in many ways."
Aretha Franklin performs at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21, at SoundBoard in the Motor City Casino Hotel, 2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $68-$98. Call 866-782-9622 or visit www.soundboarddetroit.com.
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