Aretha Franklin called New Times before her gig at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood this past Tuesday to discuss her forthcoming album, A Woman Falling Out of Love, to tell us to call her "professor," and a little bit about that hat. Yes, that one.
New Times: Do you ever vacation in Florida?
Franklin: I always come in concert, but I have several days off so I can look around. I was going to go fishing, but it looks like a thunderstorm. The season seems to come a little later now. The weather used to be quite wonderful in February, high 80s or 90s. Now it's 60. Things have changed with the melting of the glaciers.
I hear that A Woman Falling Out of Love was a family affair.
Both of my sons were involved. Eddie is singing an inspirational tune, "His Eye Is on the Sparrow." He is a vocalist to be reckoned with.
So Star Wars' Lando Calrissian, AKA Billy Dee Williams, really appears on the album?
He's one of my favorite actors. He's got a great voice and was the first person I thought of for a recitation from the film A Summer Place.
Covering B.B. King's "Sweet Sixteen" is a coup. Are the two of you close?
I know B.B., and he's a super guy, one of the great all-time blues singers. It's one of the great songs that I've always enjoyed. I was looking for some blues. I also wrote a couple of things, including one called "I Adore You, Also I Abhor You," about a phase of falling out of love.
What else do you have planned for the rest of the year?
I'm going to be Professor Franklin. In the fall, I'll be teaching a vocal class in Detroit — no more than 20 or 25 students selected by a special process. Young artists will get individual coaching from me.
So, like Aretha Franklin's American Idol?
No, it's like "Aretha Franklin's vocal classes for aspiring performers." I'm excited to hear them. Any type of vocalists should apply, across the board. I probably will include voice choreography, wardrobe, and presentation.
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Precious sure got a lot of Oscar buzz this year. Did you catch it?
I went to see it, and it was great. The focus of the film is a young woman who has problems with an abusive mother, but that's not solely an African-American problem.
How much do you think about your performance at President Obama's inauguration?
I'm sure people are still thinking about it all over the world. It was such a historic moment. I'm still trying to decide if the Smithsonian will get the hat. Still have it at home, and we'll see. Maybe later this year.