Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1095

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Aretha Franklin: The Queen's Christmas Speech

Aretha Franklin at
Aretha Franklin at Aretha Franklin Aretha Franklin Aretha Franklin: This Christmas

Aretha Franklin, a household name the world over, has racked up more awards and accolades than virtually any woman in music historyâfrom the much-coveted Presidential Medal of Freedom to being named one of Time magazineâs most important people of the 20th century.

Her hit recordsâ'Respect,' 'Think,' 'Chain Of Fools,' 'Daydreaming,' 'A Natural Woman'ââ are timeless classics; her 18 GRAMMY® Awards, a multitude of gold and platinum albums and singles and her induction as the first female artist into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame speak to her global legendary status. And yet, with the 2008 DMI Music release of This Christmas ARETHA, the undisputed Queen of Soul has achieved another benchmark in a truly illustrious career. The sizzling 11-track collection of traditional and contemporary holiday standards, given the Franklin powerhouse treatment, is Arethaâs first Christmas album.

Ms. Franklin, why is this your first Christmas CD

Well, the powers that be at other labels told me, âChristmas albums donât sell,â whenever I suggested it before. But everything is not about the money. I always want to be in the mix and Christmas is a very important time of the year for many people, including myself, because it surrounds the birth of Christ.

How did this project come about

I was doing something with AARP through Tena Clark (of DMI Music). We began to talk about it and I started recording on June 1[2008]. I recorded during my off-days from being on the road. We worked in some of the top studios in Detroitâsome of the musicians came in from Californiaâand in New York and Los Angeles.

How did the song selection happen

There were a certain number of traditional songs they wanted and I picked the rest. Donny Hathawayâs 'This Christmas' and (The OâJaysâ) 'Christmas Ainât Christmas' are songs I look forward to every year. They always get played in my home.

This album is also a family affair'

Yes, my son Eddie is singing on âThis Christmas' with meâthatâs the first time weâve done a duet. My son Teddy is playing guitar on
'The Lord Will Make A Way.' Thatâs one of those old time, good time kind of tracks. Itâs a traditional gospel song and itâs just smashing. Itâs right there on the front burner. That grooveâ¦phewâ¦!

You also play piano on a couple of songs

On 'Silent Night' and '14 Angels,' which is from 'Hansel & Gretel.' I enjoyed recording this album and everyone was very easy to work with.

Tell me about some of the other songs on the album

'One Night With The King' is something I heard by [gospel singer] Juanita Bynum and I said, âwe got to put this in the program.â I recorded 'Ave Maria' once before on my One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism album [in 1987]. Other songs like, 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing' and 'Angels We Have Heard On High,' I heard as a child and I am delighted to now be recording them.

What was Christmas like in the Franklin household when you were growing up

Christmas in the Franklin householdâ¦hmmmâ¦let me seeâ¦It was always about good cooking, great smells throughout the house, hustling and bustling, gift giving and, of course, going to my Dadâs church for the services and for the Watch meeting on New Yearâs Eve. For me and my younger sister Carolyn, it was also about wondering how Santa got by us. We had these large French windows and we would look out for the sleigh, look up at the sky and stay up as long as we could to watch out for Santa.

And how do you celebrate now

Every year I always do the family thing at Christmas and I make sure we have a beautiful time.

How do you feel about âThis Christmas ARETHAâ as an entire piece of work

I am thrilled with it cut by cut. This new album even goes beyond my personal top ten list of my own recordings. Of course, Iâm always critical. I always hear something I could have done better. But I love to play it throughout. Itâs smashing! I hope people find it spiritually uplifting, comforting and enjoyable.

Did you come up with the words for 'Twas The Night Before Christmas' which is a spoken word piece

Uh-huh! (laughs). Most of them are mineâ¦I was just having fun!

Will you be performing any of the songs during upcoming shows

Yes, Iâm sure we will include some as part of the program for the rest of the year

I noticed how good you sound on this album vocally

You are on the money. I was just getting my voice straightened out when we recorded it. I didnât like what was happening with my voice for a while so I went to see a specialist. I found out I had acid reflux and that was affecting my range and clarity. The doctor said it was too much spicy food, chocolate and bottles of Coke. Now Iâm really singing again and this album is the tip of the iceberg!

What have you been up to recently

Well, as you know, I went to the R&B Foundation show in Philadelphia and I havenât seen a show that good in a long time [60s singer] Sugar Pie DeSanto was a knockout⦠Iâm going to have her perform at my Christmas party along with The Chi-Lites. I also have a new album ('A Woman Falling Out Of Love') on my Arethaâs Records label and Iâm shopping that. Iâm considering releasing it through digital distribution or doing it online.

Do you ever listen to your own albums at home

All the time. Most recently, Iâve been listening to a Columbia CD, The Queen In Waiting. I loved some of those performances, there were some great arrangers and producers. Iâm really enjoying it.

Youâve had such an amazing career. How do you feel about it

Iâm having a good time. Iâm still growing in terms of presentation and how to entertain. The best comes with growth and experience.

OK, one last question. Howâs your life, Ms. Franklin

It is ever fabulous. I mean, fabulous. Iâve been so blessed. Iâm most thankful for how good God has been to me. When you receive something like the Presidential Medal of Freedom, wow. After Godâs grace, Iâm so grateful for good friends, loyal fans and the love of the music. I treasure real people and I know the ones who have hung in there with me and I am truly thankful.

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