ARETHA FRANKLIN

THE QUEEN OF SOUL SAYS SHE’S READY TO SUR­REN­DER HER THRONE

Closer Weekly - - News - — Bruce Fretts, with re­port­ing by Hi­lary Shein­baum

De­tails of the Queen of Soul’s de­ci­sion to re­tire from the road.

Nat­u­rally, a woman has the right to change her mind, but Aretha Franklin says she’s made up hers: “I must tell you, I’m re­tir­ing this year,” the soul diva pro­claims. “I will be record­ing, but this will be my last year in con­cert. This is it.”

Af­ter 56 years as a singer-song­writer, Aretha’s ready to call it a ca­reer, but not be­fore she records a new al­bum, ex­pected in Septem­ber, which she’ll pro­mote with a few con­cert dates. “Some se­lect things,” she says, “once a month, for six months out of the year.”

Tour­ing has be­come harder for the su­per­star, who turns 75 on March 25, as she’s had health is­sues. Over the past few years, she has can­celed shows, most re­cently in Au­gust, “due to doc­tor’s or­ders,” as she said at the time.

HEART AND SOUL

Although Aretha has said she now feels great, she is ready for a lighter sched­ule, in part to fo­cus on her fam­ily. A mother of four, she has grand­chil­dren who will leave for col­lege soon, and she wants to spend qual­ity time with them. Her role as the fam­ily’s ma­tri­arch “is re­ally im­por­tant to her,” bi­og­ra­pher David Ritz tells Closer. “She’s been su­per con­sci­en­tious.”

Aretha ad­mits she’s am­biva­lent about re­tir­ing. “I feel very en­riched with re­spect to where my ca­reer came from and where it is now,” she says. “I’ll be pretty much sat­is­fied. But I’m not just go­ing to sit down and do noth­ing.” In fact, she’s record­ing her new al­bum in Detroit with Ste­vie Won­der. “Sev­eral of the songs are go­ing to be pro­duced by Ste­vie, and there’s only one Ste­vie, right?” she says of the pro­ject, which is ex­pected to in­clude all orig­i­nal ma­te­rial and span sev­eral mu­si­cal gen­res. “We’re not pi­geon­holed into any one thing.”

So her reign as the Queen of Soul may end with a bang. “She’s still singing her ass off,” Ritz says. “Her big­gest song was ‘Re­spect,’ and in her own way, she’s earned the re­spect of the world.”

“Every birth­day is a gift. Every day is a gift.” — Aretha

She’s won 19 Gram­mys over the years, start­ing with her first two for “Re­spect” in

1967. Aretha says it’s “ridicu­lous” she’s never recorded with

Ste­vie be­fore.

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