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Up All Night With Aretha Franklin

On her 72nd birthday, Queen of Soul opens up about working with Andre 3000, love for Beyonce and why she won't retire

Aretha Franklin and Clive Davis attend Aretha Franklin's 72nd Birthday Celebration at the Ritz Carlton in New York City.
J. Countess/Getty Images
March 24, 2014 10:35 AM ET

"What a party!," Aretha Franklin said Saturday night, seated on a couch in the Ritz Carlton’s appropriately-named Star Lounge, looking elegant in pearls and a sparkly lime green skirt suit. "Just tremendous. What a night!"

100 Greatest Singers: Mary J. Blige on Aretha Frankin

The Queen of Soul spent much of her 72nd birthday bash tucked in a corner, sipping Coke next to friends Clive Davis and Denzel Washington. But close to midnight, she cut a multi-tiered vanilla cake, handing pieces out personally to guests, including Congressman Charles Rangel and Judge Mathis. Then she was on a couch in the center of the room, tapping her fingers to the Dizzy Gillespie All Stars. Does Ms. Franklin have an all-time favorite birthday? "Other than this one?," she told Rolling Stone with a grin.

Franklin has a lot to celebrate right now. Last week, she played Atlantic City’s Revel Casino Hotel ("It was fantastic, a smashing night") and has June dates scheduled for New York’s Radio City Music Hall. She’s also reunited with Davis, who is executive producing her next LP, a concept album where she’ll cover her favorite female singers – songs like Donna Summer’s "Last Dance" and Barbra Streisand’s "People."

Franklin is also linking up with one prominent hip-hop name. "Andre 3000 is going to be aiding in producing some of the tracks," said Franklin. "I love everything he does. He’s got a groove that I really, really like." Franklin said she recently received several of the recorded tracks from producer Babyface, which she is preparing to sing over and is aiming for a June release. "But right now, I’m just looking for a record deal for my granddaughter, Victorie, who sang for me at the BET Honors," Franklin said. Franklin on being a grandmother: "It’s fabulous."

Franklin is also considering covering Beyonce on her next LP, opening up about her affinity for the singer. "I like 'Bootylicious,' 'Survivor' – my little granddaughter loves 'Survivor,'" she said. "She’s a worker," Franklin says of Beyonce. "And I can appreciate that. I’m a worker."

Franklin’s real birthday isn’t until tomorrow, March 25th, and she’s still solidifying her plans for the big day. "I think I am going to see the Motown musical again, and maybe Aladdin." Franklin wasn't disappointed by Broadway's Motown musical. "Well it’s about Detroit, and I knew all the real people - Diana [Ross] and Marvin [Gaye] and Berry [Gordy] and Smokey [Robinson]. They do a great portrayal of those people."

I mention many of those performers, like Ms. Franklin, are still around performing today. "Yes," she nods, adding she’s not looking to retire anytime soon. "Why should I? I’m doing what I love and people love to hear us do it. I’ll always do it."

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Song Stories

“Whoomp! (There It Is)”

Tag Team | 1993

Cecil Glenn — a.k.a., "D.C." — was a cook at Magic City, a nude dance club in Atlanta, when he first heard women shout "Whoomp — there it is!" Inspired by the party chant, he and partner Steve "Roll'n" Gibson wrote a song around it. Undaunted by label rejections, they borrowed $2,500 from Glenn's parents and pressed 800 singles, which quickly sold out in the Atlanta area. A record deal came soon after. Glenn said the song was meant for positive partying. "If you're going to say 'Whoomp there it is,' and you're doing something negative, we'd rather it not have come out of your mouth."

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