“She has left us with a musical legacy that kids who have not even been born yet will get a chance to experience,” Robinson said of the Queen of Soul following her death at the age of 76. Franklin’s battle with pancreatic cancer apparently escalated swiftly since, as recently as five weeks ago, Franklin told Robinson she hoped to record new music.
“I talked to Aretha maybe five weeks ago or so and her plan was, she was gonna retire from doing performances, but she was always going to record,” Robinson said. “She said, ‘Smoke, I’m just not going to do any more dates, but I’m always going to record.'”
Robinson also touched on growing up in Detroit with Franklin and Motown legends like Berry Gordy and Diana Ross, and remembered the first time he heard a five-year-old Franklin sing by the piano.
One of Franklin’s most iconic television moments was when she and Robinson shared a stunning duet of “Ooo Baby Baby” on a 1979 episode of Soul Train. “It was always wonderful to do anything with Aretha,” Robinson said of performing alongside Franklin. “Aretha was, like I said, my ace. We were really, really close, and to do anything with her was a joy.”
As for Franklin’s thoughts on the state of music, Robinson said, “Aretha loved music and she loved new artists. When I see people talking about today, ‘Well you know, the music business is in trouble because the new artists are this or they’re that,’ there are some wonderful new artists out there. Show business has a great future, and Aretha appreciated that.”
In a separate interview with Reuters, Robinson added, “[Franklin] had that voice and she was the original and she could sing anything. They called her ‘the Queen of Soul,’ but Aretha could sing anything you put in front of her: opera, soul, gospel, jazz, whatever it was.”