The music world woke up to the sad news on Thursday morning that Aretha Franklin, the undisputed “Queen of Soul” had died at her home in Detroit at the age of 76. Tributes poured out across both mainstream and social media, with fans, colleagues and even Franklin's neighbors all attempting to put into words what she meant to music as well as the history of this country. Pop singer Ariana Grande was the scheduled musical guest on “The Tonight Show” on Thursday, where she obviously put promoting her new album aside for a more fitting musical performance in tribute to Franklin.
Grande would team up with “Tonight Show” house band The Roots to open the show with a performance of one of Franklin’s most iconic ballads, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” The 1967 hit was famously performed by Franklin for President Obama and its co-writer Carole King at the Kennedy Center Honors a few years ago. As seen and heard in the video above, Grande’s performance may not have had as many special guests out in the audience, but she shines just as brightly in filling the song with as much energy and inspiration which Franklin had done for so many years. While America mourned the passing of one of its cultural gems, Grange took the opportunity to celebrate the music and lyrics that have helped carry fans around the world since the song’s release over 50 years ago.
Grande also sat down to speak with Jimmy Fallon about the times the two singers had met in recent years, in addition to a surprise phone call she received from Franklin in hopes of passing along one of her younger relatives’ music to the emerging pop singer.
“She called me one time, it was one time only,” Grande can be heard saying in the video below. “She goes, ‘Hi, its Aretha.’ And I was like, ‘Franklin?!’”
Grande’s new album, Sweetener, is out today (Friday) and can be heard in full on all major streaming platforms.