Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul. She is without doubt, the most influential vocalist of all time, with the only other real contender being Frank Sinatra, each for their own distinct reasons. Last night, CBS finally aired their taping of November’s Kennedy Center Honors. Among the honorees was legendary singer/songwriter Carole King. Her tribute was the show’s closing number, and Aretha closed, and stole the show.
Entering as only Aretha can, adorned with a fur coat and carrying a diamond encrusted clutch, she steps to the piano and begins to play “A Natural Woman” as a visibly moved Carole King looks on in anticipation. The look on King’s face as Aretha sings the opening line is nothing short of shock, awe, and excitement Aretha easily delivered one of her best vocal performances in years. A few lines later, the camera pans to President Barack Obama as he wipes a tear away from his face. She wasn’t even to the chorus yet and had the leader of the free world moved to tears. Let that sink in for a moment.
Over the year’s Aretha’s voice has shown it’s fair share of wear and tear, which contrary to some complaints, is very much the norm for someone who has been singing their face off since the 1950’s (in church, 1960 is when she signed with Columbia,) like she. The night of the Kennedy Center Honors, however, she sounded so remarkable it was as if she reached back into 1967 to borrow a few notable high notes (her lower register has remained relatively unchanged throughout the years). The entire audience, from fellow honorees George Lucas, Cecily Tyson, and Rita Moreno, as well as Michelle Obama and Viola Davis (who was flailing her arms so fervently it looked like she might take flight) are all shown at their feet by mid-way through the performance. The camera continues to pan to King, who is consistently shown doing nothing short of, getting her life while Aretha cuts through the song like not a day has passed since recording it.
Side note: Why is #DropsMink not trending right now?
Watch below, for your own good: