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Michael McDonald pays double tribute to Aretha Franklin at Sound Board

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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DETROIT -- Michael McDonald had plenty of his own hits to play on Wednesday night, Aug. 15, at Sound Board in the MotorCity Casino.

But somebody else, and their music, who was top of mind for the Doobie Brothers/Steely Dan veteran.

McDonald -- who dueted with Aretha Franklin on her 1992 single "Ever Changing Times" -- altered his regular playlist to pay tribute to the ailing music icon not once but twice during his 90-minute show. He dedicated a solo rendition of her 1968 song "Ain't No Way," which was written by Franklin's sister Carolyn Franklin, "to Motown's very own Queen of Soul tonight. Please keep her in your thoughts and in your prayers." After his performance he intoned, "Thank you, Aretha Franklin."

McDonald returned to the Franklin canon at the start of his encore with a full-band rendition of "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man." "Once again, keep her in your soul and your prayers," McDonald told the Detroit crowd at the end of the song.

McDonald joined a growing list of artists paying tribute to Franklin in her home town -- including Beyonce and Jay-Z during their show Monday night, Aug. 13, at Ford Field, and Stevie Wonder, who came to Detroit on Tuesday, Aug. 15, to visit Franklin and stopped in at McDonald's afternoon sound check before leaving town on Wednesday.

Franklin remains in hospice care at one of her homes in the Detroit area, reportedly surrounded by friends and family. Her nephew Tim Franklin told People magazine that she's been "alert, laughing and teasing" with visitors despite her dire condition, which has drawn worldwide attention.

The New Bethel Baptist Church, where she was raised and her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, was pastor, held a prayer vigil for her early on Wednesday morning.

After Franklin's passing on Thursday morning, Aug. 16, McDonald issued a statement: "Aretha Franklin holds a significant place in the collective heart of America. She’s a singular example of what we represent at our best. Her courage as an artist—making her work her life’s foremost endeavor—and her conviction to strive for her greatest potential is an example that this country will always benefit from. It's something that truly defines us in a positive light to the rest of the world.

"She’s one of those iconic artists that cause most people to remember where they were the very first time they heard her amazing voice. She has reached that highest level as an artist where her voice has become, in a collective and spiritual sense, our voice.

"In a time when art is increasingly considered a secondary human pursuit, she reminds us that it is the very thing that represents our humanity the best.

"Aretha Franklin is and will always be a national treasure."

Franklin wasn't the only Motown hero on McDonald's radar on Wednesday. Following "Do Right Woman..." he and his band played Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," a song he introduced as "a prayer for peace" and noted that "like so many great songs, it's become more relevant over the years." He also told the Sound Board crowd to "remember to pray for peace, and hopefully the next time we meet it'll be in a more peaceful world."

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