It was a weekend celebration fit for a Queen as the Motor city honored the 18 time Grammy winner and first woman ever inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the reigning and undisputed Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin during the first annual Detroit Music Weekend held June 9th through the 11th.
Although born in Memphis, Tennessee, Aretha Franklin has called Detroit home for more than 50 years. The daughter of Reverend CL Franklin, Aretha's formative years were spent in the church and around Gospel music's hitmakers including Mahalia Jackson, Clara Ward, James Cleveland, Albertina Walker & the Caravans and Sam Cooke. Her 1972 album, Amazing Grace featuring Rev. James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir is the biggest selling album of her career, selling over two millions records and earning a Grammy Award in 1973.
The festivities began with a street renaming of a portion of Madison Avenue to Aretha Franklin Way on Thursday, June 8th. On Friday, tribute performances were presented at Detroit's Music Hall Center by the divas of Detroit including rousing performances of Franklin classics,"Oh Mary Don't You Weep" by Grammy winner Karen Clark Sheard and "How I Got Over" sung by Vickie Winans.
Additonal performances came from Sunday Best Winner Tasha Page Lockhart and Larry Callahan and the Selected of God Choir. Celebrated BMI Songwriter and Producer and accomplished musician Derrick Starks was part of the Superband helmed by Kern Brantley and shared his sentiments. "It was just an honor to be a part of such a fabulous tribute. Ms Franklin is authentically a Detroit treasure and it was wonderful that we could have an opportunity to honor her for contributions to music. Having the opportunity to share the stage and play behind some of the greats is an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life."
The festival continued with some 30 plus artists performing across 4 stages before the finale when Queen Aretha graced the audience with her presence flanked by her long time friend, the Reverend Jesse Jackson. Franklin's band was conducted by Chicago native Fred Nelson III and Franklin was joined by Melvin and Doug Williams for an emotionally stirring rendition of Precious Memories.