Smokey Robinson remembers Aretha Franklin at tribute concert

The tribute will air March 10 on CBS

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 neighbour 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 favourite songs back to life during the Jan. 13 taped tribute concert in Los Angeles.

The tribute will air March 10 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 neighbourhood friend,” he said.

READ MORE: ‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin has died

Robinson talked about meeting a 6-year-old Franklin for the first time after her family moved from Buffalo, New York, to Detroit. He said their first encounter came at Franklin’s home, which he called a “mansion.”

“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 honour, in 2005.

One of Franklin’s best-known performances was when she sang “My Country ‘tis of Thee” at President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

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 including her grandson who spoke at her funeral were in attendance at the tribute, hosted by filmmaker and actor Tyler Perry.

Robinson called Franklin a “game-changing sensation” who had one of the “greatest voices” of all time.

“She was a gifted songwriter, a fantastic musician and a great political activist,” he said. “But for me, she was always my little sister who I loved so much. I still love her so much. But she’s gone home now to be with her father. I believe she has been reunited with her entire immediate family.”

Many others echoed Robinson’s sentiments.

A video montage of Franklin was shown at the show’s start as quotes paying homage to her were displayed on the screen from Obama, Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett and Willie Nelson. The video also showed the singer in a joyful moment laughing alongside with King.

“Aretha set the bar,” a quote from Quincy Jones read.

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” while wearing a stunning white dress. Keys sang while playing the piano, saying she was “blessed to be here,” before she introduced SZA as the two performed a duet of “Day Dreaming.”

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” with a house band led by music director Rickey Minor, 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” as the rapper inserted his own politically charged rap lyrics into the 1972 song.

Other performers included Shirley Caesar, Kelly Clarkson, Chloe X Halle, H.E.R., John Legend and BeBe Winans.

__

Follow AP Entertainment Writer Jonathan Landrum Jr. on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MrLandrum31

Jonathan Landrum Jr., The Associated Press

Just Posted

19 Wing Comox welcomes new wing commander

Col. Dany Poitras assumed command of 19 Wing Comox

Pacific Salmon Foundation contributes $42,000 to Comox Valley wild salmon restoration projects

The Pacific Salmon Foundation announced it is contributing more than $42,000 to… Continue reading

Mount Washington zip line nearing completion

Once finished, the line will be the longest and steepest zip line on Vancouver Island

PHOTOS: Vancouver Island MusicFest revisited

This year’s lineup included Colin James, Tom Cochrane and lots more

Jets host peewee baseball tourney

The Comox Valley peewee A Jets baseball team is hosting a 10-team… Continue reading

Body, burning truck found near northern B.C. town

RCMP unsure if the two separate discoveries are related

Couple found dead along northern B.C. highway in double homicide

Woman from the U.S. and man from Australia found dead near Liard Hot Springs

UPDATE: West Kelowna fawn euthanized, not claimed by sanctuary

Gilbert the deer has been euthanized after a suitable home was not found in time

BC Wildfire Service warns wet weather no reason to be complacent

Fire risk currently low for much of B.C. compared to same time over last two years.

Bank of Canada lowers qualifying rate used in mortgage stress tests

Home sales softened last year after the federal government introduced new stress test rules for uninsured mortgages

Port Hardy RCMP cleared in arrest that left man with broken ribs, punctured lung: IIO

The IIO noted the matter will not be referred to crown counsel for consideration of charges.

B.C. man pleads guilty in snake venom death of toddler

Plea comes more than five years after the incident in North Vancouver

Trudeau says Ottawa open to proposals for B.C. refinery as gas prices soar

Prime minister says he knows B.C. residents are struggling and the federal government is open to ideas

Most Read