Aretha Franklin Says Pope Francis Embodies the Lyrics of ‘Respect’, Sees ‘Greatness In his Humility’

Aretha Franklin performs in concert at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on August 2, 2015. (Photo: Earl Gibson III, WireImage)
Aretha Franklin performs in concert at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on August 2, 2015.
(Photo: Earl Gibson III, WireImage)

The last time Aretha Franklin sang for a pope — for John Paul II, back in 1987, when he visited Detroit — he arrived “a little late, I think,” she remembers. “I was called to the microphone just as his motorcade was pulling in. I don’t know if he heard me. But then, the speakers were so loud, you probably could have heard me from Chicago.”

On Saturday, as the world knows, the Queen of Soul will again serenade a pontiff. This time, Pope Francis will hear Franklin sing Amazing Grace, a song she chose “because it is universal. It’s appreciated and loved by people of all faiths.”

Franklin, who will perform as part of the Festival of Families — along with Andrea Bocelli, Juanes, the Philadelphia Orchestra and other artists — is the daughter of a Baptist minister; but she notes that her father, the Reverend C.L. Franklin, “was a theologian. He listened to other ministers, and taught us that people of different faiths should respect and appreciate each other.”

She notes, “Some of the children we grew up with were Catholic. They taught us the ‘Hail Mary’.”

Franklin is, naturally, “honored and excited” to be singing for Francis. “I’ve been watching as he made his entrance into America, the pomp and pageantry. I know they call him the ‘people’s pope,’ and I’ve been very impressed in reading about him. He seems very kind, and sensitive to the poor and indigent. I’m most impressed by how he refers to himself as the son of immigrants — he remembers who he is. He has such humility, and there is greatness in humility.”

After Philadelphia, Franklin will travel to Chicago to perform “at a tribute to the owner of the Cubs.” That would be Thomas Ricketts, owner of the Chicago Cubs baseball team.

Franklin canceled a show in Las Vegas last month, but says the issue was not her health — “I’m feeling fabulously well” — but her travel schedule. She had traveled to the West Coast from Detroit to do several shows (including a recent stop in Los Angeles), and the singer — who famously avoids flying — “had to drive 2100 miles each way.” She quips, “I am looking at American Airlines now. It shouldn’t be too long.”

The 73-year-old Franklin does plan to “pull back on the traveling and the concerts a little bit after this year. I want to spend more time with my grandchildren.” She also hopes to record a new album of original material soon: “I have some great, great ideas.”

SOURCE: USA Today – Elysa Gardner

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