Monday, May 20, 2024

Aretha Franklin’s Birthday Brings Together Eric Holder, Al Sharpton, and Charlie Rangel


It’s not Aretha Franklin’s birthday until Wednesday, but she’s been celebrating in style. Last night at the Ritz Carlton the Queen of Soul had the hottest party in town. Her guests included Clive Davis, Valerie Simpson, Sarah Dash (of Labelle) who led the “Happy Birthday” singalong, and Freddie Jackson from the music world, plus choreographer George Faison, Sirius XM’s Tracey Jordan, and Lawrence O’Donnell and Tamron Hall from MSNBC.

“Empire” producer Lee Daniels was also there, along with CNN’s Don Lemon. I did ask Lee why he killed off Malik Yoba from “Empire” last week. “Don’t ask me,” he said, “it was Danny [Strong’s] idea!”

aretha 2015 bdayBut from politics, the amazing Miss F brought together Attorney General Eric Holder, Rev. Al Sharpton, and Charlie Rangel. Holder and Rangel were seated on the same settee, but they didn’t have much of a conversation. Holder told me he and his wife became friends with Aretha in the last couple of years, and Franklin drove down from Detroit to Washington recently to sing “Amazing Grace” at his exit event.

Wait! Aretha introduced all the guests and thanked them amidst the Duke Ellington Jazz All Stars playing, as well as singer Avery Sunshine, mimes and clowns, and New Orleans dancing girls. But she introduced Holder as “the former attorney general.” I asked him if he’d actually left (knowing the answer). “Not yet!” he laughed.

This was Sunday. On Friday night, Aretha and her orchestra braved a pretty substantial snowstorm and headed to the Webster Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut for what turned out to be a landmark show. Despite the show, the Arena was packed, and the Queen put on a show over two hours long that featured a roaring gospel segment and a rare performance of Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” accompanying herself on piano. The show was so hot it melted the snow faster than the Bridgeport plows could get to it.

Just a note: you do know that back in the early 70s, Franklin had a hit covering “Bridge” after Simon & Garfunkel released it. Her gospel R&B version then became the way Simon started doing it as a solo act. On Friday, you could feel the goosebumps rise, and electricity crackle in the Arena as Aretha led HB Barnum and her orchestra through a good 12 minutes. It was mindblowing. A star for over 50 years, she turns 73 on Wednesday.

photo c2015 Showbiz411

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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