Franklin tribute at CAAM will focus on gospel music

By Dorany Pineda

Contributing Writer

EXPOSITION PARK — It’s the kind of tribute Aretha Franklin could appreciate.

Hundreds of adoring fans and music aficionados will gather at the California African American Museum from 7 to 9 p.m. Aug. 30 for a gospel music tribute to the late Queen of Soul, who died Aug. 16.

The Los Angeles Chapter of the Gospel Music Workshop of America and Southern California Community Choir Alumni, with directors Herman Jones and Rev. Quincy Field Jr., will perform music from Franklin’s “Amazing Grace” album, which was recorded in South L.A. with the New Temple Mission Baptist Church Choir.

“I think it’s going to be a moving tribute,” said Aundrae Russell, program director at radio station KJLH, which is hosting the concert, which is being organized by the offices of county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. “You’re going to have a lot of the local choirs here. … I think it’s going to be an amazing tribute to her.”

“Music is a living testament to life, spirit and soul, and connecting us in our shared humanity,” Kristin Sakoda, executive director of the L.A. County Arts Commission, said in an email. “[We] are pleased to join this celebration to Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul, who inspired generations through her voice and storytelling in song.”

In Detroit, where the Queen of Soul died from pancreatic cancer, political dignitaries and musical icons are expected to speak at Franklin’s funeral Aug. 31.

Among them will be former President Bill Clinton, singer Smokey Robinson, who grew up with Franklin in Detroit and was a longtime friend of hers; the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Cicely Tyson.

Other speakers will include former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, music executive Clive Davis, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Bishop T.D. Jakes.

Although Franklin’s memorial service will not be open to the public, the Word Network — the largest African-American religious network in the world — will air the service live on network and broadcast stations authorized by the Franklin family. The service will begin at 7 a.m. Pacific time.

The local celebration is one of numerous events happening nationally, including “A People’s Tribute to the Queen” Aug. 30 in Detroit that will feature dozens of jazz, blues, R&B and gospel musical performances.

American actor, playwright and filmmaker Tyler Perry will introduce actress, comedian and singer Jennifer Lewis at the event, who will perform a piece written for Franklin. Lewis is known for playing mother roles in the films “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” “Poetic Justice,” “The Brothers” and more.

Since the iconic singer’s death, thousands of people nationally have expressed deep gratitude for Franklin’s rich body of work and the inspiration she instilled in musicians, activists and everyday people.

When news of her death broke, fans left flowers, pictures and messages on Franklin’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

On KJLH, the local radio station, dedicated 24 hours of its programming to honor Franklin.

“We also let listeners call in and say what they wanted to say about her, say their condolences or talk about their favorite song, request their favorite or [tell] their favorite Aretha memory,” Russell, from KJLH, said. “We just really let the audience have the station to express their thoughts regarding Aretha Franklin.”

As far as the impact she left behind, Russell said it was huge.

“She transcended race, she transcended color. She was just an amazing artist,” he said.

“She’ll live on. I put her in the category with Michael [Jackson], Prince and Whitney Houston and James Brown as far as the major artists that we’ve lost over the years. To me, she’s definitely top three, top four of all time. … She’s in there with the greatest. And she’ll be missed, but her legacy and her songs, her music will live on forever to bless generations to come.”

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