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Aretha Franklin Engaged

Soul diva set to marry 'longtime friend' Willie Wilkerson

January 2, 2012 3:55 PM ET
aretha franklin willie wilkerson
Aretha Franklin and Willie Wilkerson arrive at Aretha Franklin's birthday dinner at the Park Lane Hotel in New York.
Monica Morgan/WireImage

Congratulations are in order for the Queen of Soul: she's getting married.

Today Aretha Franklin told the Associated Press that she and "longtime friend" William "Willie" Wilkerson became engaged over the holidays. She added that the couple is mulling a summer wedding in Miami Beach with a reception to follow on a private yacht, and that she is considering ordering a custom dress from one of three prominent designers: Valentino, Donna Karan or Vera Wang.

The powerhouse singer has fully recovered from her recent health concerns, with a doctor telling her that surgery she underwent a year ago could add 15 to 20 years to her life. She certainly sounds happy: the 69-year-old Franklin, who has been married twice before, joked to the AP, "No, I'm not pregnant."

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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