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The Journal Gazette

  • FILE - In this Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, file photo, Patti LaBelle performs at the "Aretha! A Grammy Celebration For The Queen Of Soul" event at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The special is set to air on March 10, 2019, on CBS. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

  • FILE - In this Nov. 7, 2017, file photo, Aretha Franklin attends the Elton John AIDS Foundation's 25th Anniversary Gala in New York. A tribute to Franklin is set to air on March 10, 2019, on CBS. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)

  • FILE - In this Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, file photo, Jennifer Hudson performs at the "Aretha! A Grammy Celebration For The Queen Of Soul" event at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The special is set to air on March 10, 2019, on CBS. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

  • FILE - In this Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, file photo, Celine Dion performs at the "Aretha! A Grammy Celebration For The Queen Of Soul" event at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The special is set to air on March 10, 2019, on CBS. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

  • FILE - This Jan. 13, 2019 file photo shows Smokey Robinson at the "Aretha! A Grammy Celebration For The Queen Of Soul" tribute in Los Angeles. The tribute will air on March 10, on CBS. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

Wednesday, March 06, 2019 1:00 am

Franklin remembered as friend first at tribute

JONATHAN LANDRUM Jr. | Associated Press

LOS ANGELES – For Smokey Robinson, the late Aretha Franklin was more than just the Queen of Soul.

Robinson told a packed venue that Franklin was his longtime neighbor in Detroit, calling the acclaimed singer his “little sister” whom he still misses at the “Aretha! A Grammy Celebration for The Queen of Soul.” He along with some of music's well-respected artists such as Alicia Keys, Celine Dion and Patti LaBelle took the stage to help bring Franklin's favorite songs back to life during the Jan. 13 taped tribute concert in Los Angeles.

The tribute will air Sunday on CBS.

“She was the girl next door. In fact, she was the girl right around the corner who became a lifelong friend, who became a musical icon,” said Robinson of Franklin, who last year died at age 76 from pancreatic cancer at her home in Detroit. When they were younger, he said they played hide-and-seek and kick-the-can games outside.

“Before Aretha passed away, she was my longest living neighborhood friend,” he said.

Robinson talked about meeting Franklin after her family moved from Buffalo, New York, to Detroit.

“I went into this little room, peeked in and saw this little 6-year-old girl sitting there playing the piano and singing up a storm. ... 'Amazing Grace,' ” he said. “She was amazing. I said to myself, 'If she wants to, I know she's going to be somebody really important in show business.' ”

Franklin certainly left her imprint on music and the world. She had dozens of hits over the span of half a century and took home 18 Grammy Awards. In 1987, she became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The prolific singer and pianist sang at the dedication of her longtime friend the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s memorial in 2011. She performed at the inaugurations of President Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and the funeral for civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks. President George W. Bush awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, in 2005.

Music mogul Clive Davis told the crowd “there will never ever be another Aretha Franklin” at the tribute put on by the Recording Academy. Some of the singer's family members were in attendance at the tribute, hosted by filmmaker and actor Tyler Perry.

Throughout the night, renditions of Franklin's songs from “Respect” to “I Say a Little Prayer” brought people out of their seats.

Jennifer Hudson, who will star in Franklin's biopic, kicked off the tribute with an energetic performance of “Think.”

Celine Dion received a standing ovation before she performed Franklin's version of “A Change is Gonna Come,” which was originally made by Sam Cooke. Patti LaBelle's voice soared on “Call Me,” as many throughout the crowd yelled out “encore” after she finished.

Fantasia, Andra Day, Brandi Carlile and Alessia Cara sang “Natural Woman” together. Common joined Yolanda Adams who sang “(To Be) Young, Gifted and Black.” Other performers included Shirley Caesar, Kelly Clarkson, Chloe X Halle, H.E.R., John Legend and BeBe Winans.