Aretha Franklin on level in January 1993. (Photograph: Amy Sancetta, Related Press)
LOS ANGELES — On a sparkly and soulful night time throughout the Shrine Auditorium, Jennifer Hudson and Celine Dion served up a couple of showstoppers because the Grammys celebrated Aretha Franklin.
The Sunday tribute concert, conceived by longtime Franklin collaborator Clive Davis before the singer’s Aug. 16 death, was taped for a future CBS airing. John Legend, Patti LaBelle, Janelle Monae and Alicia Keys — who was joined by SZA — were among those performing for the crowd of about 5,500, which included a Detroit contingent of Franklin friends and family members.
An airdate has not been officially announced for “Aretha! A Grammy Celebration for the Queen of Soul,” the latest in a series of Grammy-presented tribute concerts. Previous honorees have included the Beatles, Stevie Wonder and Frank Sinatra.
As host Tyler Perry vowed early on Sunday, the Franklin show set out to provide “a whole lot of soul and R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”
Hudson was striking in a white gown to kick off the program, serving up a trio of ‘60s favorites — “Think,” “Ain’t No Way,” “Respect” — in a big and brassy performance that ended with a blown kiss to the crowd.
Hudson is slated to star in Franklin’s biopic. Like Sunday performers Fantasia, Yolanda Adams and Shirley Caesar, she was also part of the Queen of Soul’s Aug. 31 funeral. So was Smokey Robinson, who took the Shrine stage Sunday to emotionally reflect on his lifelong bond with the singer he called “my little sister.”
Dion delivered with a potent rendition of the civil-rights anthem “A Change is Gonna Come,” simmering and soaring to draw tears and a rousing standing ovation.
Backstage after the three-hour taping, Franklin’s grandchildren — Jordan, Victorie and Grace — singled out performances by Monae (an animated “Rock Steady”), Keys (“Spirit in the Dark”) and SZA (“Day Dreaming”) as personal highlights.
Other performers Sunday included Brandi Carlile, Andra Day and Rob Thomas, along with new-generation stars Alessia Cara, H.E.R. and Chloe & Hallie.
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