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Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, Bids Goodbye, Dies at the Age of 76. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired August 16, 2018 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] (JOINED IN PROGRESS)
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: "CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon starts his coverage right now.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Her music will live on. And I loved it in there in the song when she says take care TCB. Because she did it. She took care of business all the time. I'm going to get to this Chris. So I'll see you next time. Thank you, my friend.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
This country has lost one of our greatest treasures. Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. A title that she more than earned with a voice that could raise any roof from the church all the way to the White House.
With a heart as big as her voice and a soul, a soul that helped to power the march for freedom for people of color when she insisted like she always did on re-s-p-e-c-t "Respect."
Aretha Franklin sang for presidents, even bringing President Barack Obama to tears in this performance. This is the Kennedy Center Honors, 2015.
(ARETHA FRANKLIN SINGING)
LEMON: And Aretha sang for every one of us.
(ARETHA FRANKLIN SINGING)
LEMON: People across America, I'm one of them, have been playing Aretha Franklin's music celebrating her life, incredible life and career. And singing along to their favorites. This is one of mine right now, and I love this song so much because of the beginning to the piano. She's playing the piano her. It's her cover of Sam Cook's "You Send Me."
(ARETHA FRANKLIN SINGING)
LEMON: My gosh. Baby you thrill me honest you, honest you do, honest you do.
This is very personal for me as you can probably tell. One of the greatest blessings of the work that I do is that I get a chance to meet and have conversations with some really incredible people. More than once I've met a hero of mine, but nothing compared to
getting to know Aretha Franklin. Miss Franklin.
You know, a lot of ways her music, her voice has been the soundtrack of my life. Maybe yours too. For as long as I can remember, I've been listening to -- there we are at her birthday party. I have been listening to and loving Aretha.
In my house, at picnics, cookouts, parties, in the car, on the plane, wherever I could listen to her. And the people who work on this show have heard me sing her songs more than a few times even in the commercial breaks here in the studio. They have to listen to me.
But sitting down across from her just a few years ago, I was just about speechless.
(ARETHA FRANKLIN SINGING)
LEMON: I could go to heaven right now.
ARETHA FRANKLIN, SINGER-SONGRWRITER: Don't do that.
[22:05:02] LEMON: Her whole life Aretha Franklin raised her incredible voice in song, but she also raised her voice to fight for justice.
LEMON: Do you think your songs were the anthem to Civil Rights, to the civil rights movement, so many songs you've made.
FRANKLIN: Well, "Respect" was a mantra for the Civil Rights movement. It was.
LEMON: Do you feel we're moving forward or fast enough?
FRANKLIN: I think we have come a very, very long way. We've come to the forefront in many fields. Of course entertainment, sports and so on, but we still have a long way to go.
LEMON: And in a never-before-seen interview for an upcoming CNN Original Series, Aretha Franklin talked about the early days of the Civil Rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King Junior.
FRANKLIN: When Dr. King came out in the early days of Selma and Rosa Parks, I told him that I wanted to go out and travel with him and sing for him. Because I had sung for my dad, and I'd like to sing for Dr. King and what he's trying to do here. I appreciated what she was trying to do, bring people together.
Or certainly get parity in some way and lighten up the discrimination and give people a chance to make a dollar. So my dad said if that was what I wanted to do, it was OK.
LEMON: You can see there, this is shot fairly recently. I'm not exactly sure of the date, but she was thin there, dealing with what she was dealing with.
You're going to hear much more from that exclusive interview throughout the show tonight. So make sure you stick with us. We've got a lot of people here to celebrate. Some of her closest friends and colleagues, and I want to bring in one of them now, and that is another legend, Gladys Knight. Ms. Gladys Knight. How are you this night?
GLADYS KNIGHT, SINGER-SONGWRITER: I'm fine. How are you?
LEMON: I'm OK. I'm OK and I want to do this to honor her. And I'm so glad that you're here to do it. You're called the Gladys the badass, she's called the Queen of Soul, and a voice like hers or talent at that piano that's why I love you send me so much because you could hear that piano right off, her song writing. What made her the Queen of Soul to you?
KNIGHT: It was everything. You have to understand that she was the breaker. She was the person that went out front, stepped on out there and did what she was supposed to do, and set the pace for the rest of us as far as workmanship and all that kind of stuff.
And I was 12 when I first heard her, Aretha sing. You know? And my mom was part of the gospel singer and my aunt and all that, and she came home raving about this little girl Reverend Franklin's little girl that sang never grow old. She said baby, you got to hear this lady sing, you know, and from there on out, I just had an ear for her music.
She touches you somewhere. It's not just lyrics and melody. You know? It's a life in the songs and the stories that she tells through this music. And that's what I learned how to do.
KNIGHT: In the beginning in.
LEMON: Well, she was the original RiRi. You called her RiRi, right, and I remember that was her nickname.
LEMON: And now that young folks are like, RiRi, what are you talking about, Rihanna? I'm like, no, no. I'm talking about the RiRi.
KNIGHT: Yes. LEMON: And you said this morning in your tweet that she the standard
for every lady in the industry to rise to. You looked up to her.
KNIGHT: I felt like she really did. You know? She had a voice that was God-given, and she used it to the best of her ability and to all kinds of heights. You know what? With Aretha, she didn't really know what she had. She was kind of shy. I know you met her before. She was kind of laid back and quiet, you know.
When we told her hey, Ri, so and so and so and so, she was very chilled about it, you know. And what's a good thing.
KNIGHT: She's just put it all into music.
LEMON: Always cool, calm, and collected. And you know what I used to say, Ms. Knight, is that I loved -- I love watching her perform, but one of the best parts of watching her perform live was when she first comes on to the stage and she sits and then she does her sound check. She says you got to do this level this week. You got to do this with this microphone, and then, you know, then you get it together. And when she starts you're like, yes. There we go.
KNIGHT: She was -- she was picky, all right. Very picky.
[22:10:02] LEMON: Yes. We all remember her--
KNIGHT: Things had to be just so.
LEMON: We remember her saying think, think about what you're trying to do to me, especially when she's pushing a guy around in the "Blues Brother" movie. She has this iconic song where she's demanding respect as a woman, as a black woman.
KNIGHT: Absolutely. Absolutely. And you know what? I don't think she really understood the power of who she was and the music that she was doing, because Aretha, to me, was kind of shy, so to speak.
And I know people probably never have seen that side of her, but I got a chance to see her so much, and every time I got a chance to go see her, I went to see her.
I remember she was playing a breakfast show in Atlantic City. That was 4 a.m. in the morning. Aretha came out. It wasn't 4 a.m. It wasn't 5 a.m., but she finally came out and said I'm sleepy. We did crazy things like that. You know?
KNIGHT: Always lifting up and supporting each other. We loved her to death.
LEMON: We used to joke about her because she loved her purse, and it was never far, and that's where all the money was because she wanted to be paid in cash. That purse was never out of her eye line. But you know, we have been talking--
KNIGHT: I know.
LEMON: Right? She loved it. We've been talking about the impact of having these strong black women on the cover of magazines right now about Beyonce, about Rihanna, Jay-Z, Ross, and so on, but I want everybody to take a look at this. This is Aretha Franklin on the cover of Time in 1968.
LEMON: That is a trail blazer. Right?
KNIGHT: Yes. Yes, it is. Definitely a trailblazer and we were just so proud of her, because you know what? Something about that spirit and something about that voice. You know, it was very difficult to what they called cross over in those days. You know? They wanted to keep us right in the R&B section, you know, because we were African-American, and those kinds of things.
You know, Aretha didn't care. She did her music, but her music had some magic to it, because it just went and swept everybody. I don't care what color you were or where you lived or anything like that. That's why she became the icon that she became, because she broke down those barriers. You know?
And we all marched with Dr. King, and that kind of thing. We had that in common as well. When we come together to get something done, it gets something done when we're all on the same page. And that's where we were with our music and our performances and all of that.
We used to sing for his campaigns when he was running for things, and so forth and so on. And there we were, standing together.
KNIGHT: And I just -- I just really respect that.
LEMON: I didn't know it then but now I'm so grateful that my parents would take me to concerts to see when I was young, to see people like Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson and you know.
LEMON: And Gladys Knight, I saw you at the astrodome in the 1970s in Houston, Texas when we were on vacation at the astrodome.
KNIGHT: My goodness.
LEMON: Yes. Yes. Gladys Knight, thank you.
LEMON: Thank you, Ms. Gladys. KNIGHT: Gladys Knight appears (Ph).
LEMON: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
KNIGHT: It's been a wonderful journey. It's been my pleasure.
LEMON: You be well, and next time we talk, let's hope it's for something that's not sad but I'm glad we're here to celebrate her life. Thank you.
KNIGHT: I am too. Thank you for having me and allowing me this opportunity to say well done, my sister. Safe journey home, and I know you're going to be in the heavenly choir, and I hope to join you if when I come if I make it.
LEMON: You'll make it. You'll make it in, but let's hope it won't be for a long, long time. Thank you so much.
KNIGHT: All right, Don. Thank you. Love you.
LEMON: You as well.
So I want to bring in now another of Aretha Franklin's dearest friends. And that is Smokey Robinson. He joins us now on the phone. How you doing, Smokey?
SMOKEY ROBINSON, ARETHA FRANKLIN'S FRIEND: I'm cool. How are you doing?
LEMON: I'm doing all right.
So you said this morning that Aretha Franklin was your longest friend. You grew up together.
LEMON: So talk to me about that.
ROBINSON: She was my longest friend. You know, I've known Aretha since I was eight years old. So, you know, and everybody else from our neighborhood from our immediate, you know, click, our immediate friends and all kids that we grew up with, they're all gone. You know? And she and I used to talk and say we're the last two. Last two of the Mohicans, you know. But, you know, our father chose to call her, and so she had to go. So here we are.
LEMON: Yes. I want to play something for you. This is Aretha Franklin from a never before seen interview from an upcoming CNN original series. Take a look and we'll talk about it.
[22:14:57] FRANKLIN: Our first neighborhood in Detroit was on what's called the north end of Detroit, and we stayed right on the corner of Oakland which was around the corner from my oldest and dearest friend, Smokey Robinson. We were sand box friends. And I used to give them little tips before they became the miracles.
LEMON: That interview was done in September of last year of 2017, Smokey. Talk to me about Aretha and the church in Detroit in the early days. When did you first hear her sing?
ROBINSON: Man, I first heard her sing the first day that I met them. Her brother, Cecil was one of my aces. You know, we were together all the time as kids and adults. It was like the Franklin family was one of my other families. You know what I mean?
And so when the first day I met Cecil, a guy who lived next door to them named Richard Ross. And we all played together. We were kids. And like I said, I was eight years old, and Richard comes around and he's got this new guy with him who was Cecil. They just moved to Detroit from Buffalo, New York.
And so we went around to see their new house, which was next to Richard's house. So we went in and we were in there, and Cecil and Aretha grew up on called Boston Boulevard in Detroit. There were two streets in the hood. I mean, in the hood. OK? Boston boulevard and Arden Park.
And it was like they were so out of place, because these two streets were right in the center of the hood and they were plush and they had mansions, and you know, everything was green and flowers and so on and so forth right in the middle of the hood. So I lived on Belmont. Aretha lived on Boston Boulevard, which was one of these streets I'm talking about.
So we go to the house, and we're in there. It's like a mansion. You know? It's like all this stuff is in there. We growing up did not have privy to seeing because none of us had anything like that, but the Reverend C.L. Franklin was one of the most popular ministers in the country, so that's how they lived, but they didn't act that way.
ROBINSON: They were just right down front down people. You know, they didn't act hotsy-totsy or anything of that like that. So we were all really good friends.
So we go into the house and we're walking around, and I hear a piano being played and somebody singing in a little voice from another room. OK? So I being curious about music always all my life, I go to see what's happening.
And I open this door, and here's little Aretha Franklin, about five or six years old, sitting at the piano, playing the piano and singing. Damn, and like she sings now. So that was my first sight of her, my first introduction to her.
LEMON: I wonder if you ever thought that you would be performing a duet with her, because you did on soul train back in 1979 singing one of your songs. So let's look at this.
(ARETHA FRANKLIN SINGING)
FRANKLIN: We should have been a duo.
ROBINSON: I'm telling you, it's not too late.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Smokey. I mean, that moment between you and her when she said you should have been a duo. I mean, that's everything.
ROBINSON: Well, you know, man, Aretha was my baby. You know what I mean. So we were just cool all of our lives, and we stayed in contact, and we talked all the time, and up until she was no longer able to do that a few weeks ago, you know.
ROBINSON: And I'm going to miss her, man. Like I said, Aretha was my baby, my home girl. You know what I mean? And as far as our close friends in our neighborhood and so on, we were the last two.
LEMON: You got a favorite Aretha song?
ROBINSON: Pardon me?
LEMON: Do you have a favorite Aretha song?
ROBINSON: No, man.
LEMON: All of them, right?
ROBINSON: Absolutely, because Aretha could sing anything. I mean, anything from -- as you saw on the Grammy's that time. Anything from -- excuse me -- opera to blues.
ROBINSON: Everything in between. Jazz, rock, whatever it was. Aretha could sing the phone book, brother.
[22:20:01] LEMON: Yes. There you go.
LEMON: It's a good way to leave it. Thank you, sir, I appreciate it.
ROBINSON: You're so welcome.
LEMON: I'm so sorry for your loss.
ROBINSON: Man, well, you know what? But I'm celebrating her life, man.
LEMON: Absolutely. ROBINSON: When we were kids growing up, man, all we used to talk about -- everybody in the neighborhood, we grew up in a neighborhood. Diana Ross lived (Inaudible) four streets from me, Aretha was right around the corner. The Four Tops lived two blocks over. The Temptations lived right over (Inaudible) Avenue. We grew up in that neighborhood. You know what I mean?
ROBINSON: We were all hoping to do this.
ROBINSON: And some of us were -- there's some people that I can't even name, some groups and people like that who could really, really, really sing who didn't get that break, who didn't get that chance. You know?
So we were all blessed, and we talk about our blessings all the time. How blessed we were to come out of that situation and become what we wanted to be, what we wanted our lives to be. So she had that, and she lived a good life, and I'm going to celebrate that.
LEMON: Well, everyone you mentioned, including you and Aretha Franklin, brought a lot of joy to a lot of people. Thank you, Smokey.
ROBINSON: Thank you very much, Don.
LEMON: When we come back, Civil Rights icon Congressman John Lewis says Aretha Franklin's music inspired everyone in the movement to keep the faith. I'm going t o talk to him, next.
LEMON: Congressman John Lewis, and icon of the Civil Rights movement says Aretha Franklin's music encouraged Civil Rights activists to be strong, to keep the faith and to continue their struggle.
And like all of us, he was a big fan. I talked to Congressman Lewis tonight and I asked him what Aretha Franklin meant to America and to him personally.
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: I love Aretha. I love her music. I love what she stood for. She inspired generations of young people and people not so young to stand up, to speak up and to speak out. She gave us hope.
During the sit ins, the freedom rise, the marches. I remember from time to time getting out of jail in Selma, Alabama. We would go to a little club and put a quarter in a machine and listen to her music and her music gave us hope in a time of trouble.
LEMON: Let's -- I want to talk a little bit more about that. Because her father, congressman, he was friends with Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. She performed and toured for Dr. King. I just want to play this for you. It's a CNN exclusive. It's never
before seen interview from an upcoming original series. This is Aretha Franklin talking about Dr. King and her father. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKLIN: I certainly saw the beginning of Dr. King and what he was trying to do, bring people together and fighting for parity and to erase the discriminations and different things, and fighting for a number of things.
[22:25:12] Yes, he was a civil rights activist. He and my dad were friends, and my dad brought him to Detroit. There was a moment that after -- well, my dad organized and funded the movement in 1963, the walk to freedom here in Detroit.
When Dr. King walked in to Cobo Hall, it sounded like the building was coming down. OK? I've never heard such a rumbling and a moment like that was a one moment in time, a historical moment when he walked in Coho Hall. The sound was thunderous. It was thunderous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And congressman, we have some pictures that we'll put up, it's from 1963 of Dr. King in Cobo Hall that where Aretha was referencing. Talk to me about her commitment to Civil Rights and social justice.
LEWIS: Aretha learned from her father, learned from Dr. King and others. She learned from the young people during their freedom rise during the sit-ins and the marches. She is so right.
Dr. King appeared in Cobo Hall and led this march through the streets of Detroit two months before the march on Washington. And some of the speech that he delivered on August 28th, 1963, he delivered part of that speech at Cobo Hall.
I've been to that hall a few times, and he inspired the people there, and so hundreds and thousands of people who had heard him in Detroit made it to Washington. Her father was a strong supporter of Dr. King. And Aretha herself was a supporter of the movement.
LEWIS: She raised money for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC for Dr. King and SCLC. And the last time I saw her with Dr. King was in Atlanta at the Hyatt Regency Hotel at a convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
And she performed and she kept singing. She wouldn't stop, and she got happy and just kept singing. And Dr. King asked one of his staff people to get Aretha to close down because we had to move on with the program.
LEWIS: And that was the last time that Dr. King saw her here in Atlanta. The next year he was assassinated.
LEMON: Well, that brings me to this. Because let me put this up. This is what Bernie King posted on Twitter. It's a touching tribute. It's photos after Aretha with her parents, and I want to play this clip. This is from her performance at Dr. King's funeral. Watch.
(ARETHA FRANKLIN SINGING)
LEMON: She also sing at Rosa Park's funeral, Michael Jackson's funeral. Now it's our turn to pay our respects, isn't it?
LEWIS: We must guy respect to this wonderful, beautiful soul. She inspired generation, and I think her music really inspired a generation yet unborn. She was so gifted. She could sing in so many different ways and people around the world would tune in to hear her. Hear the words. Be moved by her spirit, by her action.
I saw her almost two years ago at a portrait gallery in Washington, D.C., and she was in good spirit, and I saw her down there at the inauguration of President Barack Obama. I saw her in New York City, and she was always asking about people in the movement. Where are they? What are they doing, John?
[22:29:56] I love Aretha. Without Aretha Franklin and her music, I don't know where we would be as a nation and as a people.
LEMON: Well, Congressman, we'll end on that. And it is a sad day but it it's a day to celebrate her legacy, the wonderful memories that she leaves behind, the music portfolio, everything. How she inspired young up and coming artists and really inspired the world. I appreciate you joining us. Thank you so much.
LEWIS: Thank you, sir.
LEMON: And when we come back, remembering Aretha Franklin with those who knew her best. Her family pays tribute to the Queen of Soul.
LEMON: We are celebrating the life of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. And one person who wants to help us celebrate that life is actor, producer, director Tyler Perry, and he joins us now via phone.
Tyler, thank you so much for joining us. How are you doing?
TYLER PERRY, ACTOR: I am good, Don. You know the thing about it is so emotional about it in understanding what she has meant to you. I completely get that, because remember her reaching out to me one day. And having this icon, this legend tell me she enjoys what I did and my shows. And it was very moving for me.
I remember she was very ill a couple years ago. I reached out to her (Inaudible) making her laugh and having a good time on the phone. So it's a difficult time for everybody who loved and cared about her, but it's also a celebration because I am so grateful as you are that we got to be on the planet at the same time she did. LEMON: Yeah. Not only got to be on the planet but got to develop a
friendship with her. And that means the world when someone like Aretha Franklin, Tyler, reaches out to you and says she's proud of you and what you're doing. I mean for someone like that me that just meant the world to me. I didn't even know what to the make of it at the time.
[22:35:02] PERRY: No. I get it. That's a kinship. That's why I can totally feel the emotion that you have. I get it. It's how my parents and your parents loved and appreciated her so much. And now, you know, for their children to get that call is wonderful. She invited me to a lot of things. We spent a lot of time talking. It was just wonderful.
LEMON: Yeah. She inspired a lot of people. What does she mean to you? What was the inspiration for you, Tyler?
PERRY: I tell you, just Aretha's music meant -- would let me know if we're going to have a good time in my house over the weekend. It would tell me the mood that my mother was in when I came home from school on Friday night. If I heard Natural Woman, then she was in a good mood. She was happy with my father. If I heard Respect, you'd better think. I knew there was trouble in the house.
Her music has always represented certain things for me. The last time I saw her perform was at the Kennedy Center honors, that moment where she brought the house down for everybody to their feet and literally almost brought us to our knees and bow to the Queen. And President Obama was sitting up in the box with me and turns to me and says that's why she's the Queen of Soul, that voice.
And what happened in that room. And I am just grateful that she used that voice to galvanize us, to bring us together, to sing us through assassinations and inaugurations and all kinds of celebrations. I mean Aretha's life is going to live on in the music, and just the memories that we have of her. It's been wonderful.
LEMON: That's why she's the Queen of Soul. This is a statement that you released earlier to CNN. The way she uses that voice, I thought about that today. She used her voice to sing us through good times and bad, from assassinations and celebrations and civil rights to women's rights. I wish more people would use their voice to uplift rather than tear down. That is powerful.
PERRY: But true. But true, especially in this day. And I look at where we are right now with all these legends like, you know, Prince. The Prince is gone. Michael Jackson, the King is gone. Whitney, the princess she is gone, and now the Queen of Soul is gone. I wonder what's next, you know. Where are these voices that are going to come up that are going to inspire us and encourage us and galvanize and bring us together and not divide us.
I think it's so important that we look for those voices and support them and stand with them, because Aretha left us a blueprint on how to do that, and we should definitely pay attention to it.
LEMON: Very simply Tyler, thank you.
PERRY: Yes, my friend. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
LEMON: Thank you for helping us celebrate her life, Tyler Perry.
Now I want to bring in now Vaughn Franklin, Aretha's nephew. Hi, Vaughn.
VAUGHN FRANKLIN, ARETHA FRANKLIN'S NEPHEW: Don, how are you doing?
LEMON: My deepest condolences to you and your family. You OK?
FRANKLIN: I am. Thank you very much.
LEMON: Yeah. So talk to me about -- and I don't want to linger on it, but just the last couple of months. It's been tough for the -- obviously for her and her family. What has this been like?
FRANKLIN: It has. It's been very difficult on the family as a whole. You know it's amazing how you can see a woman such as my auntie just evolve. She was surrounded by a lot of love. The family was there. And just seeing her transition from where she was to, you know, where she was when I last saw her this past week was breathtaking.
You can't put words on it. It just broke your heart. When you go in and you have a chance to really sit down and talk to her and really, really feel the love that she had for everyone in the room, my cousin Sabrina and my brothers and cousin Brendan and others in the room, it was just -- it's just difficult to deal with, especially right now, and then her kids, you know, her boys, you know?
I know that everyone is praying for the Queen of Soul, my aunt. But please pray for her, her kids too, her boys.
LEMON: And her music. Your aunt's music is literally the sound track to so many people's lives, iconic songs that's going to live on for generations. But what about your family, did she sing and play for you at home?
FRANKLIN: Well, she did. There was one time that we all remember. We were in the Hampton's with her for one summer. Because she enjoyed keeping family around her, and it was right around the time that Luther Vandross had passed away. So we woke up in the morning and we're all getting ready to start our day. And we heard something in the house.
And we thought that the radio was on. So we stuck our heads out of the rooms to see what was going on, and we went downstairs, and she was actually downstairs singing. And just hearing her voice in the residence, and then when you walk down and you saw her just -- even now, it makes the hair on my arms stand up, and just the powerful voice that she had, and how much she enjoyed, you know, the singing and it was just amazing just to experience that.
[22:40:11] LEMON: The entire world is thinking about your family, Vaughn Franklin, and we appreciate you joining us here on CNN. You take care.
FRANKLIN: Thank you very much, and I appreciate it.
FRANKLIN: All right.
LEMON: When we come back, Motown remembers one of their own. The one and only Berry Gordy joins me next.
LEMON: The Queen of Soul was part of an incredible generation of singers, composers, lyricists, producers in the 1960s Detroit. Motown changed American popular music. Joining me now is Berry Gordy, the Founder of Motown Records. Thank you so much, Mr. Gordy. How are you?
BERRY GORDY, FOUNDER, MOTOWN RECORDS: Hi. How are you, Don?
LEMON: I am OK. You have known Aretha Franklin for decades. And you say that she was part of your family. Tell me what she meant to you.
GORDY: Yes. Well, first of all, I am just -- it's kind of an out of body experience thinking about the fact that she's not here. It's just very strange. She meant so much to me, because first of all, she was my home girl. I didn't hang out with her like she did with Smokey and that gang because they were coming up kind of the same way.
But she was very close to Motown and its artists and they loved her and its artists. They loved her. She loved us. And she had -- she came from the church, and you always knew that in her music.
LEMON: Did that contribute to her level of artistry? Talk to me about what she brought to her music.
[22:44:47] GORDY: She brought originality. She brought originality. She brought love. She brought kind of genius to it. She didn't know it, because it was in her soul. And she made every song her own, you know? It was Aretha Franklin. Nobody could, you know -- she could take a song, for instance, that was the ABC's.
She could sing it and it would become a classic because of the way she did it, and how she did it, and the feeling that she had, and the -- her soul came out in everything.
LEMON: It was a soul, and it was a church.
LEMON: She started in the church, so I mean you couldn't help but feel that in her music. And, you know, Mr. Gordy, she won so many awards and broke so many barriers. How -- can you describe the impact that she had on the music industry?
GORDY: Well, it's hard to really explain because she was such a unique, different, genius-like, you know. Like many artists, you know, only come along once in a decade, you know others once in a century and others once in a lifetime. But an Aretha Franklin comes along only once, period. So what she gave us and left with us will never be duplicated, because she was a pure artist, and an artist very seldom sings the same note twice in a song.
She does it a different way or she does it her way. And aside from all that talent and creativity, she was just a beautiful human being.
LEMON: And very...
GORDY: I met her -- well, I saw her when she was like three or four years old. I was visiting her father who was a dear friend of mine, Reverend C.L. Franklin. And I was at her house, and she was, like, three or four years old and she was on the piano playing and singing and having fun. And I thought whoa, what a cute little kid.
Cute little kid, but I was not too bright. I was kind of stupid, because I never thought about signing her or even talking to her at that age. And never really thought about it too much because I was so proud of her, and she was so close to all the Motown artists. She was like a part of my family, my sisters, my brothers.
It was like a -- and everybody asks me well, why didn't you sign her? I said because I was stupid, you know? I didn't think this kid three and four years old was going to turn out, you know...
LEMON: You've had so many successes with so many people. And it's good that she had -- you had her in your life and she had you as well. And she touched so many people. And I thank you so much for joining us to talk about your friend, Aretha Franklin. You take care. Thank you, Mr. Gordy.
GORDY: OK, wonderful, thank you.
LEMON: Thank you. When we come back, I'm going to talk to a friend and collaborator of Aretha's about what it was like to be in the room with the Queen of Soul.
[22:50:00] LEMON: Aretha Franklin is the biggest and most successful stars in music history. She won 18 Grammy awards and was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, joining (Inaudible) who worked for her for years, and my (Inaudible) Tracey Jordan from Sirius XM Radio.
TRACEY JORDAN, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF TALENT, SIRIUS XM RADIO: Hi, Don.
JORDAN: Hi. You were friends with Aretha for decades.
JORDAN: I actually, you know, the first time I met her I was 14 years old.
LEMON: Oh my, gosh. JORDAN: I was friends with someone who knew her for (Inaudible) her
sons. And they brought me to this brown stone on 88th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenue. And we were in the living room, and we were eating chips and drinking pop, as Aretha would call it and listening to records. All of a sudden, Aretha walked in from the kitchen and had on her apron.
And my jaw dropped. And I was like oh my god. That's Aretha Franklin. And she gave us all the once over like, you know, how she would do when she first meets you like who are you, why are you in my house, and why with my sons. And that was actually the first time I met her. And decades later, I would end up working for her.
LEMON: So you got the OK. Speaking of working for her, you were the creative force behind the One Lord One Faith One Baptism Cover.
JORDAN: Album cover.
LEMON: You say it's your all time favorite shoot?
JORDAN: Yeah. We did the recording at New Bethel Baptist Church. Jesse Jackson spoke on the record (Inaudible). And Clive said to me, you know, what would you do with the album cover? I wanted to use Norman Parkinson, who was the royal photographer. And he lived in Barbados. And he was a very tall stately British man.
And we all flew in to Detroit, and, you know, we had a friend, Cooper do the makeup. It was one of her favorite makeup artists. And we shot the album cover in New Bethel Baptist. And so he was setting up the shot and he pulled out this like table, like for a school table, and it was narrow, and he pulled it to frame his shot with the new One Lord One Faith Baptism and the cross, the neon in the background.
[22:55:09] And he was like all right, Aretha. Jump up on the table. And I am sitting there on the side thinking to myself, she's never going to do that. What are you doing? And jumped to it, she was on the table, and we got that cover shot.
LEMON: Talk to us about the significance that she -- her significance to black women.
JORDAN: I don't think you can even compare it. I mean Respect is sort of like our anthem, and Aretha was very much into civil rights and very much into women's rights. And she was a perfectionist. And of course, if you're a man, that's OK. You're a perfectionist. But if you're a woman, it's often seen as something else.
Aretha was smart as a whip, you know. She was really good with what she knew what she wanted, and she would just go after it. But she was a perfectionist.
LEMON: What are you going to remember most?
JORDAN: I have so many memories of her. Her sister Carolyn and I got very, very close because Aretha wouldn't travel anywhere. So when I was working for her at Arista, I would have to go into Detroit all of the time. So it just got to the point where she said why don't you just stay here, because she had like five bedrooms.
LEMON: And you started staying at her house, but there's a story. She was afraid of flying. Didn't you enroll her in flight school?
JORDAN: Well, we enrolled her in Delta's Fearless Flying Classes. And she went through the whole thing and graduated and then got on the plane to go on the tarmac and go down the runway, and she just said you know, Trace, I can't do this. And she took the seat belt off, got up, and the pilot had to turn around and come back.
LEMON: Yeah. She didn't want to do it...
JORDAN: She was not going to fly.
LEMON: Tracy, thank you.
JORDAN: Absolutely. Thank you so much.
LEMON: I am so sorry. I am so sorry. Thank you so much. We'll be right back.