Clive Davis, chief creative officer for Sony Music, is the executive producer of 72-year-old Aretha Franklin's new album. (Montez Miller)
Hot off a two-night Radio City Music Hall stand a few weeks ago, Aretha Franklin will bring her newly energized show to DTE Energy Music Theatre on July 12.
The Queen of Soul has moved past the lingering health issues of the last few years, and critics have noticed a difference. Veteran New York critic Iman Lababedi wrote that at Radio City, she was “ululating and tearing off the rafters” on the song “I’ve Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You).”
“At the age of 72, Aretha was in better voice than she was at 52 years old, because it takes concentration for the aural soundplays she does so well, for the scatting coda during ‘Angel,’ ” he wrote. “She takes more care with her instrument.”
Franklin says she won’t be hitting the repeat button for her DTE concert.
“I am customizing it for Detroit and I’m gonna bring it,” she promises. “Detroit is gonna love it. This is gonna be extra special for Detroit. I’ll get as many hits in as I can in an hour, 30 minutes. I’ve got a great group that I’m bringing, dancers, and I’ve got some surprises that Detroit hasn’t heard. As Sam Cooke used to say, ‘We’re gonna have a hootenanny’ — out at DTE Energy Music Theatre.”
One of her visitors backstage at Radio City was Clive Davis, who is executive producing her new album. Franklin and producer Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds have been working on the recording since early spring. Co-producer Don Was had to drop out for previous commitments, so Andre 3000 of Outkast has jumped aboard to help finish it.
“These are classic soul and pop covers. I approved of them,” Franklin says. “And when E.F. Hutton speaks ... you know what the rest of that line is.”
Among the classic songs Franklin approved and has recorded that were popularized by legendary pop and soul divas: “What’s Love Got to Do With It” (Tina Turner), “People” (Barbra Streisand), “At Last” (Etta James) and “Rolling in the Deep” (Adele).
“We are at six cuts,” Franklin says. “’Face is coming back in to work on it next week. With the next three, that will put us at nine. Andre 3000 will close it out with ‘Rolling in the Deep.’ I was learning that on the bus, on the way home.”
While she was in New York, Franklin went to see “Motown: The Musical” again (and she will be there when it premieres in Detroit in October). As for any Broadway aspirations of her own, she is in talks about a new project.
“I‘m talking to Jimmy Nederlander about doing something on Broadway in the late fall. Maybe the Christmas classics, something like that,“ Franklin says.
A limited run might work, because she’s willing to do a Broadway show — and has always been an avid theatergoer herself. But Franklin doesn’t want the wear and tear on her voice of a long run, or too many performances. “People younger than myself have done Broadway, and left there beat up. Patti left with her throat bleeding, Fantasia had to drop out, and I’m not having any of that.
“I told my agent, ‘I’d like to do something, but you should get somebody like Gladys (Knight) or Patti (LaBelle) or Natalie (Cole) to do the other three or four nights. They didn’t go for it, but now you see Wynton Marsalis doing limited appearances on ‘After Midnight,’ and he’s cleaning up.”
The feature film based upon her life is still in play; Franklin is carrying on negotiations with several parties, including the Lifetime Channel. “But they are going to have to put their sneakers on, because we are close to a signature with another group, led by a former William Morris agent, and they have the budget. But we can’t agree on the creative control, and that is the most important factor. I am going to say who’s going to play me. I am going to say who’s going to play my father and my family.
“It’s their position that the investors don’t want to risk it, with that much money on the table, but it’s my posture that I am far better to say, as an artist — none of which they are — who is really qualified to play me.”
And that’s Audra McDonald, who recently won her seventh Tony Award for “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill.” “Audra Madonald is a great Broadway voice and a superb actress. The question where Audra is concerned, is could she get over into soul — heavy soul,” Franklin ponders.
For her father, she’s leaning toward Jamie Foxx. “He can handle it as an actor, and his facial structure is a lot closer to my father’s than Denzel.”
7:30 p.m. July 12
DTE Energy Music Theatre, Clarkston
Tickets: $11 (lawn), $21-$79 (pavilion). Additional fees apply.
Ticketmaster.com or Palacenet.com