- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Aretha Franklin — a name that alone conjures up snatches of unforgettable melodies associated with fond memories.

The artist who was aptly dubbed the Queen of Soul early in her recording career commands listeners to pause and contemplate the velveteen voice that wraps around lyrics as if they were precious gems.

This week the Music Center at Strathmore promises an incomparable evening when Miss Franklin steps on stage. Joined by a 23-piece orchestra, four backup singers and her own four-man rhythm group, she will perform numbers from her latest album, “Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics.” This tribute to Adele, Barbra Streisand, Etta James, Chaka Kahn and other women vocalists she admires validates her knack for transforming every song she touches into an experience to be savored.

“I travel for the love of it and the pleasure of performing from one coast to the other,” Miss Franklin told The Washington Times. “Because we pick up most of the orchestra each place we perform, I especially love coming to Washington, where some of the best musicians in the country are located.”

Miss Franklin’s current tour will take her to both coasts as well as the heartland and Las Vegas.

“If we can negotiate a residency in Las Vegas while we’re there, we’ll anticipate a start about Christmastime,” Miss Franklin said. “In the meantime, I’ll enjoy touring and meeting fans and old friends along the way.”

Miss Franklin is equally at home in pop, soul, jazz, rock, blues and even gospel, the latter harking back to her early years singing in the choir of her father’s church. The Queen of Soul said that the Strathmore show will focus on songs by exceptional female vocalists, including “At Last” by James, “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor, “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight and “People” by Miss Streisand.

Miss Franklin will also be unveiling a new tune for the show, “My Cup Runneth Over,” made famous by Ed Ames.

Her tour would not be complete without a stop at Chicago’s popular Ravinia Festival, always a packed summer event.

In a career spanning five decades, Miss Franklin has reigned as one of the most important women in music, performing at the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr. as well as at the inaugurations of Presidents Clinton and Obama and the inaugural gala for President Jimmy Carter. Along the way she has won 18 Grammys, the Kennedy Center Honors, the National Medal of Arts and many others. She was also the first female inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Two numbers on her new album utilize her powerful pipes and penchant for creating unique partner songs. The final section of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” incorporates the chorus from Tammi Terrell’s Motown hit “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” just as Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” fuses into “Respect,” Miss Franklin’s signature song. These and other imaginative reinterpretations she plans for the Strathmore audience utilize her impeccable rhythm and overpowering presence stemming from another facet of her artistry.

“Had I not been a singer or a practical nurse like my mother, I would have been a prima ballerina,” she said, decidedly serious. “Few people know that I studied ballet for quite a while and learned some technique from the Dance Theatre of Harlem. For one concert, I brought along a small company of six or seven dancers, and a ballet master in Detroit staged it for me.”

IF YOU GO

WHAT:Aretha Franklin in concert

WHERE:Music Center at Strathmore, 10701 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Md. 20852

WHEN: Wednesday, 8 p.m.

INFO: Tickets: $65-$195 by calling 301/581-5200 or emailing [email protected]

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