“The world is poorer for her not being here,” Colbert said solemnly. “There is no Queen of Soul right now, and she can never be replaced.”
Colbert remembered seeing Franklin perform live in 2015: He was handling host duties that night at the Kennedy Center when she sang “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and brought President Obama to the verge of tears. “As she started,” Colbert recalled, “I said to one of the stagehands next to me, ‘I wish I could have seen her when she was younger, when she was in full voice.'”
He waited a beat before finishing his story: “Boy, am I stupid.” Colbert then pulled up the video from that night at the Kennedy Center, an emphatic demonstration of Franklin’s vocal firepower, and let it play.
Colbert was not the only late-night television host to pay tribute to Franklin. On The Tonight Show, Ariana Grande joined the Roots for a stirring cover of “A Natural Woman.”
Franklin died Thursday morning in her Detroit home at age 76. The cause of death, according to her publicist, was pancreatic cancer.