SHE was the undisputed Queen of Soul, a once-in-a-lifetime musical genius with a voice that could soar to the heavens.
But Aretha Franklin was also — as many fans know — funny, opinionated and at times deliciously shady to those in the music industry who she thought didn’t measure up against her talents.
As tributes flow for the legendary singer, dead at 76 after a private battle with pancreatic cancer, fans are sharing her countless incredible performances — and remembering some lighter moments from throughout her career.
Aretha wasn’t afraid to speak her mind; often with very entertaining results.
TAYLOR SWIFT, NICKI MINAJ
A 2014 interview with The Wall Street Journal became an instant internet hit when the journalist asked Franklin for her thoughts on a number of today’s female singers.
She was clearly unenthused by the idea but did her best when asked about Adele: “Young singer, good singer” — and Alicia Keys — “Young performer, good writer, producer.”
Next, Taylor Swift. Franklin paused. “O-kaaaay … great gowns, beautiful gowns.”
And with that, “great gowns, beautiful gowns” became internet shorthand for any time you’re struggling to say something polite about somebody you’re clearly not all that fond of.
Taylor got off lightly compared to Nicki Minaj, though: “Nicki Minaj? … I’m gon’ pass on that one.”
Last year Franklin got into a bizarre public feud with Warwick, accusing her of making up a story that Franklin was Whitney Houston’s godmother, even though the alleged offence happened five years previously at Houston’s funeral.
“She blatantly lied on me … fully well knowing what she was doing,” Franklin said in a phone interview.
Franklin also called the Associated Press, after sending a lengthy fax the day before, to address what she claimed was a “libellous” statement against her made five years ago at Houston’s funeral. At the time, Warwick told funeral-goers that Franklin was Houston’s godmother.
When asked if she wanted an apology from Warwick, she said: “I don’t care about her apology. At this point it isn’t about an apology, it’s about libel.” She went on: “We’ve never been friends and I don’t think that Dionne has ever liked me.”
Two legendary divas feuding — via fax! — about whether or not Franklin was Whitney Houston’s godmother? You couldn’t make it up.
Introduced by Melissa Etheridge for a performance at the White House, Franklin strides through the audience and right past fellow soul legend Patti LaBelle. Patti reaches out to grab her arm and, in one deft move, Franklin dodges her touch and keeps on walkin’. The cold-as-ice move became yet another viral Aretha Franklin moment.
Not so much a feud as a musical battle of the wills: Franklin and Dion were among the cast of big-voiced female singers on stage for the 1998 VH1 Divas Live TV special.
Singing a group rendition of (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman, Franklin clearly had trouble ceding control of the song to her duet partners.
Carole King — who wrote the classic hit but described it as very much Aretha’s song — was on stage as part of the performance and witnessed what went down.
“Aretha — as she will tend to do, god bless her — is sort of taking over. It’s the part where Celine is supposed to sing, and Aretha’s still singing!”
The result? An intense diva wail-off, as Dion and Franklin went head to head.
“I love Celine’s attitude — she’s got spunk. When Aretha sang the line that Celine was supposed to do, Celine just got right up under her and ANSWERED her,” King recalled.
Asked in an interview about the current crop of TV talent shows, Aretha said that “I see these different shows, but I don’t see any of the major names as a singer judging singers.
The interviewer pointed out that Mariah Carey had that year signed on as a judge on American Idol — and would be making $18 million per season.
“You think so? Do you know that? Inside sources? Would that be her husband?” she sniffed.
Aretha is one of the best comedians of our time. pic.twitter.com/EUcargKSJi— Phillip Henry (@MajorPhilebrity)
Not a feud, this one, but an example of Franklin’s no-nonsense attitude and sly sense of humour. Interviewer Wendy Williams sat down for an audience with Franklin a few years back, and tried to push the chat into personal territory several times.
Wendy, absolutely pushing her luck: “You seem like the type of woman who still falls (in love), and can get as stupid as the rest of us girls …”
Aretha: “Do YOU think I’m gullible? Yeah, no. I’m not gullible. Mmm-hmm. YOU get stupid — I’m not gonna be stupid anymore.”
And of course there’s more — a lot more. An article on Gawker collates other feuds Franklin nurtured over the years with artists including Diana Ross, Natalie Cole, Whitney Houston and even her own singing sisters, Carolyn and Erma Franklin.