Aretha Franklin says she’s retiring

The Queen of Soul is stepping down from the throne.

Our own Aretha Franklin told WDIV’s Evrod Cassimy this morning that she is working on one final album – produced with Stevie Wonder – and will be semi-retiring from the music business.

"This will be my last year," Franklin said during a live interview with the newscaster. "I will be recording, but this will be my last year in concert. This is it."

Franklin says she’s not completely done, as she’ll continue to do some “select things” throughout each year. But she’d like to spend more time with her grandkids, she says.

Franklin, who turns 75 next month, has been in the music industry for the majority of her life, beginning with a 1956 gospel album from the independent North End label JVB Records – that’s Joe Von Battle, father of art-scene fixture Marsha Music, by the way. That album, overseen by her legendary father Rev. C.L. Franklin, was supposed to be a prelude to a long-running gospel career in the mold of Mahalia Jackson.


Instead, Franklin pursued pop, striking a deal with Columbia Records. Her Columbia career led to her charting some middling jazz and pop entries, but it wasn’t until she moved to Atlantic Records that she began her untouchable run of albums and singles, hallmarked by her re-worked cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect.”

(Incidentally, it was also during this time that she recorded the Stevie Wonder-penned “Until You Come Back to Me,” so we’re excited about what the pair will come up with nearly 50 years later.)

Franklin’s Atlantic tenure fell into a lull by the mid-1970s as a new batch of soul singers, especially Roberta Flack and Natalie Cole, arrived on the scene. The advent of disco music didn’t help, and by the end of the decade, Franklin was at a crossroads. Clive Davis of the newly formed Arista Records stepped in and rescued the diva, pairing her with then-young producers like Luther Vandross and Narada Michael Walden to give her career a second wind.

In more recent years, Franklin has solidified her status as the Queen of Soul with historic, showstopping performances, including her performance of “My Country Tis of Thee” at President Obama’s 2009 inauguration. But an array of health problems, including a brief battle with pancreatic cancer, also beset Franklin, who spoke openly in interviews about the rigors of touring and performing.

Nevertheless, she persists. She says that her new album with Wonder will be recorded entirely in Detroit. There has been no release date announced.

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