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The Queen of Soul has Broadway on her mind

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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The Queen of Soul has been busy playing around the country, getting plenty of R-E-S-P-E-C-T -- including a well-reviewed recent run of shows in California.

But when Aretha Franklin comes home -- as she will this weekend at Detroit's Chene Park Amphitheatre -- she always wants to make a big impact.

"Oh, absolutely. I always do special things for Detroit," Franklin says by phone from New Mexico. "I'm gonna bring it, and you're gonna love it." But don't expect her to tell you exactly what she's bringing.

"Well, then it wouldn't be a surprise, would it?" the Detroit native and Bloomfield Hills resident says with a chuckle.

Franklin, 73, does have plenty that she can talk about at the moment, however, including some surprising new developments in a career that's well into its sixth decade:

With a biopic with the Lifetime network is still in development, she's planning a stage musical based on her life, hopefully in tandem with longtime music biz collaborator Clive Davis. "I would like to see it be a dramatic kind of musical," says Franklin, who's approached award-winning actress and director Marsha Mason to work on the project. "I loved 'The Motown Musical;' it was so great. I think the timing is good now, especially behind 'Jersey Boys,' Carole King ('Beautiful'). Gloria Estafan has come to Broadway now ('on Your Feet!') so why not Aretha?"

This year marks the 30th anniversary for Franklin's platinum Grammy Award-winning album "Who's Zoomin' Who?" and its Top 5 hit "Freeway of Love." "I like 'Freeway'," Franklin says now. "I really did like 'Freeway,' and usually when I really like a song like that, people like it. 'Jump To It' (in 1982) was kind of obvious to me; I said,'People are gonna love this,' and they did. The same with 'Freeway.'"

She's hoping to hatch plans soon for a follow-up album to last fall's "Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics," but Franklin is also helping some of her progeny make their way into the music business. "I'm looking for deals for my son and grandson," she reports. "My son (Kecalf) is Christian hip-hop and has great content, and my grandson Jordan is a super little writer and producer. I had no idea Jordan was doing as much as he's doing, but he's very, very talented."

Franklin's heart also remains strongly in the church and in gospel music. She's proud to say she's become "the No. 1 gospel promoter in Detroit, and since I started that I know that other ministers in the city and people have started promoting gospel again as well, 'cause they had stopped altogether." Franklin is planning a fall show -- most likely during November -- at her late father's New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit with Shirley Caesar, the Williams Brothers, Venessa Bell Armstrong and others.

Franklin's next career honor, meanwhile, will be at the National Portrait Gallery's inaugural American Portrait Gala on Nov. 15 in Washington, D.C., where she's be one of five recipients of the new Portrait of a Nation Prize.

Aretha Franklin and the Isley Brothers

8 p.m. Saturday

Chene Park Amphitheatre, 2600 Atwater at Chene, Detroit.

Tickets are $56-$150 pavilion, $46 lawn.

Call 313-393-7128 or visit cheneparkdetroit.com.

Web Site: www.cheneparkdetroit.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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