Aretha Franklin’s next album could be called the songs that got away.
The Queen of Soul is recording a collection of material made famous by other divas, with everything from “People” (Barbra Streisand) to “Last Dance” (Donna Summer) to “Bootylicious” (Beyonce) under consideration.
“We wanted to a CD of classics — that is the concept and these are classics,” says Franklin, who will make her concert debut at Revel Casino Hotel 8 p.m. Saturday, March 15. “It’s just my take on it. These are songs I enjoyed, but sometimes you hear other singers doing things you wish you’d gotten to first. Since you didn’t, at least you can still record it.”
Of course, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer knows a thing or two about classics, having applied her soaring, church-trained vocals to dozens of her own hits. The list includes “Respect,” “Chain of Fools” “Ain’t No Way,” “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” “I Say A Little Prayer,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Think,” “Don’t Play That Song” and “Daydreaming.”
For her new album, which is slated to be released this summer by RCA, Franklin has reunited with legendary producer Clive Davis, who as head of Arista Records guided her early to mid-’80s hits, notably “Jump To It,” “Freeway of Love” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Another star producer, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, is helping shape the new record.
Franklin has long enjoyed a smooth working relationship with “Mr. Davis,” who also helped launch the recording careers of Whitney Houston, Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson.
“It’s always been a very easy and a very positive collaboration,” Franklin says. “He’s right on point and very sharp. If you want to learn something about the business, just listen to him. He knows about everything that’s going on in this business.”
Franklin, who was preparing to tape a PBS special, “Women of Soul: In Performance at the White House,” at the time of this interview, is glad to get back to work, after being forced to take time off in 2013 due to some unspecified health issues. The longtime Detroit resident also had to work her way back from a serious health crisis four years ago.
“I’m happy performing again and getting back to my regular routine,” she says.
Nor does the 18-time Grammy winner and Grammy Hall of Fame member have any plans to retire.
“I was talking to Duke Fakir of the Four Tops, and he told me he might give it up after this year,” she says. “I asked him (recently) if he was still thinking of it. He said, heck no — I think I’ve got a couple of years.”
Franklin, who released her first album in 1960 when she was just 18, feels similarly.
“I think I’m going to sing until I’m tired, and that’s not going to happen,” she says. “I will always be singing somewhere.”
Now a grandmother, Franklin is thinking about her legacy. Her son, Kecalf Cunningham, is a Christian rapper, while two of her grandchildren, Jordan and Victorie, are pursuing singing careers. They all paid tribute to Franklin during a recent 2014 BET Honors special.
“It’s wonderful just to see them coming into their own,” Franklin says. “I was very proud seeing them perform on BET. They were very professional, and they were carrying their own.”
Franklin has taken an especially keen interest in 18-year-old Victorie’s singing aspirations.
“She’s coming along very well as a singer,” Franklin says. “I’m coaching her. I give her basic things — things I learned coming into the business that will serve her well in 30 or 40 years. They’re still serving me, and I’m at 50 years.”
Can Miss Franklin share any of this advice?
“Those are trade secrets — I’m not telling those.”
Cameras could start rolling soon for Franklin movie
The Queen of Soul finally may be ready for her close up.
The long-awaited bio-pic about Aretha Franklin is inching closer to production, according to the subject herself.
The movie has been in the works for several years, with Academy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson (“Dreamgirls”) and five-time Tony winner Audra McDonald among the A-list names under consideration to play Franklin.
Producer-director Taylor Hackford (“Ray,” “Hail, Hail Rock and Roll!”) has worked with Franklin on a script and is a top contender to helm the project.
But the real sticking point is arranging financing, with a projected budget of at least $40 million. Franklin, at the time of this interview, was reviewing proposals from a group of potential investors.
“We are in the final stages of negotiations,” Franklin says. “I think it’s going to be a go. There are several things we have to get over and get past. If we do, we’re on.”