Aretha Franklin’s greatest live performances
To see Aretha Franklin perform live was to feel her, as she channeled a lifetime of soul, pain, hurt and glory in her extraordinary vocals. Here are some unforgettable, must-see performances from the Queen of Soul:
Won’t Be Long – Steve Allen Show (1964)
Franklin was in her early 20s when she appeared on Steve Allen’s “Westinghouse” show, showcasing her mighty blues chops on this performance of the song from her 1960 sophomore studio set.
I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You) – Lady Soul TV special (1968)
“You’re a no good heart breaker,” Ree sings, kicking off this twisted love story that would help redefine soul music in the late 1960s. This performance comes from the TV special that coincided with the release of 1968’s “Lady Soul.”
The Greatest Love of All (1977)
Aretha’s cover of George Benson’s original proves the Queen of Soul doesn’t walk in anyone’s shadow.
Hero – Essence Awards (1994)
Paying tribute to her dear friend Jesse Jackson, Aretha covers Mariah Carey’s inspirational 1993 hit and delivers it with power, grace and soul.
Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do) – Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards (2005)
Stevie Wonder, who penned the song, joins Franklin on this performance, and hearing them go back and forth together is a sublime treat.
My Country Tis of Thee – Inauguration of Barack Obama (2009)
The hat! Aretha’s gigantic bow on her headwear made the headlines that day and she would later complain the weather threw her off her vocal game, but this performance was stately and encapsulated the feeling of hope during Obama’s swearing in ceremony.
(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman – Kennedy Center Honors (2015)
Franklin has Barack Obama wiping tears from his eye and has Carole King experiencing heart palpitations as she brings down the house with her King-penned 1967 signature tune. If this performance doesn’t make you feel something, check your pulse.
The National Anthem – Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day Game (2016)
Aretha Franklin took her sweet time — four minutes and 35 seconds, to be exact — to deliver a stunning version of the Star Spangled Banner. Some fretted about the epic length of the rendition, but we put it — Lions cap and missing teeth in her smile and all — among her all-time signature performances.