Naturally, as one of the greatest singers of all time, Aretha Franklin — the “Queen of Soul” who died at 76 on Thursday — was no stranger to Maryland, stopping here for various performances during her illustrious career.
In 1971, less than a year after releasing her album “Spirit in the Dark,” Franklin performed at Baltimore’s Civic Center. The Sun’s Earl Arnett attended to review Franklin’s performance, but due to technical difficulties and a pressing deadline, Arnett had to leave before Franklin took the stage.
“If Miss Franklin finally did come on the stage and sing, then it should have been worth it for ... the hundreds of others who came for an enjoyable night of music,” Arnett wrote. (Given what we know about Franklin’s reputation as a powerhouse performer, chances are good the audience was satisfied.)
The “Respect” singer headlined the opening night of the 1994 Artscape festival. Her performance with the “Whit” Williams Orchestra was highly anticipated throughout the city.
"It's great to have her here, as they say, the First Lady of Soul, " Mayor Kurt Schmoke said at the time.
An estimated 120,000 people attended the concert, with some finding creative ways to get a view of the singer, who was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
“People climbed trees and stood on the roofs of nearby buildings and parking garages to get a better view,” reads The Sun’s story from July 16, 1994.
She returned to the area on June 28, 1998, to perform at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia at the Columbia Festival of the Arts (her only appearance at the venue). Months later, Franklin, at age 56, canceled a free Baltimore concert to celebrate the opening of the Ravens’ new stadium, citing health issues, according to a Sun report at the time. She was scheduled to perform with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
In 2007, the 18-time Grammy winner (along with a lifetime achievement award) topped the bill of the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival in Annapolis. The lineup was stacked: Buddy Guy, Robert Randolph & the Family Band and others performed, but there was little doubt who was the main draw: Franklin, singer of timeless pop, soul and R&B songs like “(You Make Me Feel Like”) A Natural Woman,” “Think” and others.
Franklin returned to Baltimore on Nov. 13, 2014, to perform at the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric. Her final appearance in the region came last year on July 29, when Franklin headlined the Wolf Trap in Vienna, Va. She had canceled a show there a year before due to “doctors’ orders,” according to a news release at the time, but returned in 2017, when she performed her many hits with a lively full band.
Baltimore Sun librarian Paul M. McCardell contributed to this article.
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