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Tribute to Franklin real treat

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By Reggie Ponder
Columnist

Friday, March 15, 2019

I thought the Grammy tribute to Aretha Franklin Sunday night was a real treat.

Jennifer Hudson stole the show with the opening performance but it continued to be very good throughout.

It was encouraging to see so many younger performers showing respect for someone who paved the way for them. In particular I was pleased — one might say relieved, even — to see a solid and non-vulgar offering from Janelle Monae after being horrified by her ridiculously risque performance on the Grammy Awards a few weeks ago.

I don’t entertain any delusional notion that Monae is cleaning up her act permanently, since there’s obviously a lot of money to be made doing what she usually does. I’m just glad she isn’t entirely severed from her roots in real music.

She has enormous talent, after all. She can sing, dance, play instruments, and even act, as she has proven in “Hidden Figures” and other films.

It was actually her portrayal of an aspiring engineer in “Hidden Figures” that first brought her to my attention.

But after seeing her at the Grammys all I could say was, “Was that really necessary?” And my answer was, “No, it wasn’t.”

Again, though, she brought passion and virtuosity to the stage Sunday night and I appreciated it.

A number of other younger singers also graced the stage for the special on Sunday night. They all expressed appreciation for Aretha and what she had meant for American music. They indicated that she had inspired them in their own musical journey.

Aretha’s background in Gospel music also received its due during the program. Yolanda Adams, North Carolina native and living legend Shirley Caesar, and Bebe Winans sang Gospel classics as part of the tribute to the Queen of Soul.

John Legend can always be counted on to bring something special and inspiring to any song he sings, and he came through again for this show. I’m glad he’s part of today’s music scene. He’s up to date in his own way but he also seems like a throwback to the best of old school soul and pop singers.

Kelly Clarkson was as amazing as ever and Celine Dion brought a surprisingly soulful touch to her performance.

The music carried the heavy freight, as it should have, but there was just enough spoken commentary — from Smokey Robinson, Clive Davis and host Tyler Perry, among others — to provide useful context for those less familiar with Aretha’s life and career.

Reggie Ponder is a staff writer for The Daily Advance.

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