Aretha Franklin is set to release a new album in the fall. | GETTY IMAGES
N’DIGO ‘LEGEND DE SOUL’ GALA
♦ 6 p.m. June 30
♦ Arie Crown Theatre McCormick Place
♦ Tickets: $250 (VIP reception, gala and concert); $45-$90 (concert only)
♦ (800) 745-3000;
Updated: July 30, 2012 6:13AM
Aretha Franklin always gives Chicago audiences something extra they can feel.
The Queen of Soul headlines the 17th Annual N’DIGO “Legend de Soul” gala on June 30 at the Arie Crown Theater. The Impressions (original member Sam Gooden, along with Fred Cash and Reggie Torian) will open.
The late great Curtis Mayfield was with the Impressions from 1958-1970. As a solo artist in 1976 Mayfield composed the soundtrack for the motion picture “Sparkle” and called on Franklin for vocals. The soundtrack delivered the saucy Franklin hit “Something He Can Feel,” which ignited a career resurrection for Franklin.
Franklin covered “Something He Can Feel” in her glorious May 19, 2011, comeback show at the Chicago Theater, one of the best concerts of 2011.
“I met Curtis about the time we did ‘Sparkle’,” Franklin said last week during a call from her tour bus. “He asked if I would do the soundtrack and come into Curtom Studio in Chicago. Absolutely. What’s not to like about that?”
Curtom Studios were located in a small storefront at 5915 N. Lincoln Ave. The studio and label name was created by combining “Curtis” with Eddie Thomas, who was manager of the Impressions. Franklin was a little fidgety about the small space but Mayfield created a warm soulful sound by installing reclaimed carpet on the walls.
“Curtis Mayfield is one of the greatest writers of our time,” Franklin said. “He had a lot of great social commentary in his songs. ‘Move On Up’ (from his 1970 solo debut ) was one of the great ones for sure. He inspired a nation.
“Chicago has some of the greatest R&B and gospel that has been heard. Some of my favorite singers came out of Chicago, Albertina Walker, Cassietta [George], who used to sing [and compose songs] with the Caravans, Mahalia [Jackson].’’
And Jennifer Hudson.
“I’m a fan of hers and she’s a fan of mine as well,” Franklin continued. “We talked about her emulating the things I did on one of my last albums. She asked me if I heard myself in her. I told her of course, I hear myself going back in time. She came to New York and met me at the Ritz-Carlton. We had afternoon tea to get acquainted. I just saw her at Elton John’s annual (Carnegie Hall charity) affair in New York, we talked after the concert when everyone was together. ”
Franklin promises to mix things up at the N’DIGO gala. (At the Chicago Theatre show she rolled out everything from her smash hit “Think” to a fiery cover of Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me.”)
“I’ll be doing some things people haven’t heard me sing, and some old stuff that I haven’t done,” she said. “You have this big repertoire where it is hard to sing everything. So I try to change the program each time I come to Chicago. I’m also looking forward to some of that great Lem’s Barbecue (on East 75th St.) after the concert.”
Franklin has reunited with her mentor and producer Clive Davis for her upcoming CD. Davis was the braintrust of the hit Franklin albums “Jump To It” (1982, produced by Luther Vandross) and “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” (1985).
“The new record will be out by September, no later than October,” she said. “He’s talking to all the great writers gathering material for me to listen to. I look for a great lyric and a great melody in a song. It is absolutely fabulous to be back with him. We have great rapport.”
Franklin was in a chipper mood because she was on vacation en route to New York. She revealed that she loves to stop at roadside Cracker Barrels.
“I always go to Cracker Barrel and Bob Evans, too,” she said. “As a matter of fact, Cracker Barrel and I are negotiating about carrying one of my newer CDs. I love the chicken and dumplings at Cracker Barrel.”
Franklin is moving along the freeway of love just fine at age 70.
“Who is 70?,” she asked. “Puhleeeeze. I just had my 59th birthday. [Laughs] I don’t know why people can’t keep it straight!”