The White House honored the 2015 class of Kennedy Center Honor recipients in December. Honoree Carol King forgot she was the guest of the president when it was her turn to be feted during the airing of the “38th Annual Kennedy Center Honors” on CBS.
Appearing as if she was in a private concert, Carol stood to her feet some, gawked and gasped some, did the church praise wave some and sang along to the lyrics she wrote, all the while having that kid-in-a-candy store flicker in her eyes. Who elicited such a response from the honoree? All the credit goes to the one and only Aretha. Franklin. It’s quite possible that TV cameras caught Ms. Franklin at her best and a distinguished honorees having an out-of-body experience. “Re Re” as the veteran entertainer is affectionately known, will make just about anyone go there. Take you straight to church, no matter what she is singing. There she was, right before King’s eyes. “Come on Aretha, come one,” beckoned the curly haired music scribe. The Queen of Soul was singing, “Natural Woman,” the song that put King on the proverbial map over 40 years ago– there in the flesh singing – to her.
The exchange of mutual admiration between the two women was simply magical.
From the moment Franklin emerged from stage right, King anticipated it was about to go down epicly. And it did.
Franklin knows how to make an entrance. The performance started the moment she glided onto the stage decked in a full length brown fur coat, with her purse in hand, while appearing to have arrived just in time to take care of business. The 73-year-old Detroiter was the final performer in a set that included Sara Barielles, James Taylor and Janelle Monet. The songwriter and singer flung glitter-anointed kisses to one another before The Queen settled onto the piano seat. She placed her clutch on the baby grand, then with her signature “Bapticized” touch the keys began to ring out a mesmerizing secret weapon of divine origins. Franklin played on the original and knew the Holyghost would leave her finger tips and blanket the audience. Since recording “Natural Woman” Ms. Franklin has been accompanied by other able pianists many times, but for Carol, no one else would do. The back ground vocalist were on top of their parts too in the special arrangement. Unable to contain her excitement, the elated celebrant freely absorbed the regal performance, which ended with the crowd on its feet and the fur coat the Queen of Soul was wearing on the stage.
When so many American music icons have passed along, being in the presence of the living musical monument herself is an honor. The audience responded like they were glad just to see Franklin. But the their enthusiasm also came from the fact that the Queen brought it like a boss in the august of her years just as she had in her prime! She exuded all the soul, panache and elegance a performer who had seen a lifetime of stages could muster. Swelling to a climax mid-song, Aretha got up from the piano at the start of the verse that goes “Oh baby what yo doing to me” and reeled the entire audience in. Her command of the audience and untouchable vocals not only moved King to sheer joy, but also it moved President Obama who was seated nearby.
Many news outlets are reporting that Mr. President was overcome by the “Aretha Affect” and shed a tear. Did Aretha sound so good she made the president feel like a natural man? That’s likely a misread based on the timing of the camera shot. The camera caught POTUS wiping his eye, but it did not look like he was crying to me. However, like everyone else in the room POTUS felt Aretha’s performance.
Check out the performance everyone is talking about in the video. It may be one of Aretha’s best ever.
ASIDE: Vogue recently conducted a port-performance interview with Aretha Franklin to gauge her reaction to the praise she received. The vocal vet shared that neither “Natural Woman” nor her classic hit “Respect” were originally intended to statements on feminism. She connected to “Natural Woman” personally she said, yet the message quickly resonated with women universally.