“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!“
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.“
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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.“