Aretha wows at Kennedy Center Honors

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

George Lucas, Rita Moreno, Seiji Ozawa, Cicely Tyson and Carole King were feted at the annual Kennedy Center Honors recently, but it was Detroit’s Queen of Soul who stole the show at the star-studded ceremony which aired Tuesday night.

Aretha Franklin took to the stage holding a glittery clutch and wearing a floor-length fur coat to sing Carol King’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” Franklin started the song seated, confidently accompanying herself on the piano, which caused King’s mouth to drop (and her reactions only got more emotional from there).

Before Franklin was finished with the first verse, President Barack Obama could be seen wiping a tear from his eye.

Franklin passed off the piano duties to another musician, and stood center stage, belting out the tune, which she released as a single in 1967. It was co-written by King, Gerry Goffin and Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler, and became a hit for Franklin when it reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Stars like Rosie Perez, Michele Obama and King herself could be seen singing along from the audience. A vision of Viola Davis, who was in attendance to pay tribute to actress Cicely Tyson, was shown smiling with both arms raised in the air.

Upon shedding her fur coat at the apex of the song, Franklin received a standing ovation from the crowd.

The gala was filmed Dec. 6 at the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington, D.C. Members of the band the Eagles were also set to be honored this year, but their presentation was postponed to 2016 due to Detroit native Glenn Frey’s health problems.

Since 1978 the Kennedy Center Honors have been given to members of the performing arts community for their lifetime contributions to American culture. Franklin was recognized in 1994.