Aretha Franklin is soul provider for Artscape


Baltimore should get all the R-E-S-P-E-C-T it can handle when Aretha Franklin bursts into town to perform at Artscape July 15.

The legendary Ms. Franklin will headline Baltimore's annual salute to the arts, scheduled for July 15-17. She'll be performing with the "Whit" Williams Orchestra in a concert set for 7 p.m., with Ms. Franklin taking the stage around 8:15.

"It's great to have her here, as they say, the First Lady of Soul," Mayor Kurt Schmoke said, during his weekly press briefing yesterday.

The folks at the Mayor's Advisory Committee on Culture and the Arts, who last year snared Chaka Khan to highlight the musical part of the celebration, were delighted to spread the news about Ms. Franklin -- the winner of 15 Grammys (the most ever for a woman), an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a member of 1992's "Cool Hall of Fame," according to Entertainment Weekly.

"We think she's fabulous," said Clair List, director of MACAC, adding that her staff should have a schedule for the entire three-day Artscape festival ready next week. "We're looking forward to a very exciting program."

"Aretha's one of my personal favorites," said Jane Vallery-Davis, the committee's Director of Development and Public Relations. "I'm a child of the '60s, and Aretha's been around a long time. I think all of us here are really excited about it."

Ms. Franklin, 52, made her first record at age 12. Her first real hit, "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Loved You)," was released in 1967. Since then, she has been one of the most popular and revered figures in American music.

Thirty-six times, her songs -- including "Chain of Fools" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" -- have made it into Billboard magazine's Top 40. She has won American Music Awards and been feted by the International Jazz Critics. Almost three decades after her first hit, she has yet to let up: "Someday, We'll Be Free," a song she performed for the "Malcolm X" soundtrack, was nominated for last year's Best R&B; Vocal Performance, Female Grammy.

Not that everyone is a fan. Although her seven-minute rendition of the National Anthem at the 1992 Democratic Convention received almost universal praise, one letter-writer grumped to The Sun, "I hope God spares me from ever again hearing our national anthem trashed as it was by Aretha Franklin at the Democratic National Convention."

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