Aretha Gets Happy With Blige

Soul legend to release new LP in September

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Aretha Franklin will release So Damn Happy, her first collection of new songs since 1998's A Rose Is Still a Rose, on September 16th. The eleven-track set finds the Queen of Soul pairing up with the Queen of Hip-Hop/Soul, Mary J. Blige, and pop maestro Burt Bacharach.

The album's first single, "The Only Thing Missin'," was produced and co-written by Troy Taylor (B2K). Other tracks on the set include two collaborations with Blige, "Holdin' On" and "No Matter What" (both written and produced by Taylor) and "Falling Out of Love," a new tune Bacharach produced and co-wrote with Jerry Lieber ("Hound Dog") and Lieber's son Jed.

Bacharach visited Franklin's adopted hometown of Detroit to wax the track. "I'm just most comfortable working with the female voice," Bacharach says. "It's a good song -- the first I've ever written with Jerry after years of talking about it -- and she provided a great vocal. We might even have a shot at getting a single out of this one."

Other collaborations on the record include "Everybody's Somebody's Fool," which was written and produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (Janet Jackson). Franklin also penned and produced two songs herself -- the title track and "You Are My Joy" (the latter reappears in a reprised version).

Though five years have passed since Rose, the interim has hardly been a drought for Franklin's fans. Earlier this year, her 1987 gospel collection, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism was reissued with bonus tracks. And last fall, the two-CD The Queen in Waiting compiled the best of Franklin's early recording years from 1960 to 1965 (including her take on the Bacharach/Hal David classic "Walk On By"), before she went on to years of chart dominance with Atlantic Records, scoring more than thirty Top Forty hits between 1967 and 1976.

Franklin is also lining up dates for The Queen Is On . . . The 2003 Tour. Among the stops planned is a September 4th visit to Washington, D.C.'s National Mall to kick off the NFL's 2003 season along with Britney Spears.

Track listing for So Damn Happy:

Holdin' On
Wonderful
So Damn Happy
Everybody's Somebody's Fool
You Are My Joy
No Matter What
Good News
Ain't No Way
Falling Out of Love
You Are My Joy (Reprise)

Aretha Franklin tour dates:

8/22: Verona, NY, Turning Stone Casino
8/24: Hyannis, MA, Cape Cod Melody Tent
8/27: Lowell, MA, Lowell Memorial Auditorium
8/29: North Tonawanda, NY, New Melody Fair
9/4: Washington, DC, National Mall
9/6: Sterling Heights, MI
9/20: New York, Radio City Music Hall
10/4: London, ONT, John Labatt Center
10/25: Pittsburgh, Heinz Hall
12/31: Chicago, Chicago Theater