Aretha Franklin performs at the NOKIA Theatre L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles in 2012. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, file)
by Mesfin Fekadu
AP Music Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Long before she became the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin sang in her father’s Baptist church in Detroit.
On Saturday, she’ll headline the annual McDonald’s Gospelfest at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. Donnie McClurkin, Hezekiah Walker and Cissy Houston will be featured.
But that’s not the only event on Franklin’s weekend calendar. She also has a meeting about her upcoming biopic, which has been in the works for years. Franklin says she’s heavily involved in the project, including who will play her in the film. Front-runners include Jennifer Hudson and Tony winner Audra McDonald.
“I just try to come up with the names I feel are going to best present this, who are the people that will best present my biopic and what I have in mind,” the 71-year-old singer said in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press.
AP: Who’s going to be a part of the meeting about your biopic?
Franklin: Mr. (Clive) Davis has gotten in the group and Suzanne de Passe, who co-wrote ‘Lady Sings the Blues.’ Taylor Hackford, who did … ‘Ray’ … and the William Morris agent and myself. Those are the principals that will be meeting this weekend.
AP: What do you think about Audra McDonald starring in the film?
Franklin: The question where Audra is concerned is whether or not Audra can get into soul. That would be the question because she has the voice, she has a beautiful instrument. I just wonder how far she can get over into soul.
AP: What about Jennifer Hudson? She has a lot of soul.
Franklin: Jennifer would come up with some good things.
AP: Anyone else?
Franklin: The rest would come out of the producer’s book. People that they want me to listen to that I may not know.
AP: Some people are upset because Zoe Saldana is playing Nina Simone in that biopic and they don’t believe she resembles Simone.
Franklin: I did know Nina and I would have liked to see someone with a little more of a likeness and hopefully played the piano. But I don’t know Ms. Saldana’s work and Hollywood can do a lot of things in terms of changing your features and all of that.
AP: What’s it like to perform for gospel fans?
Franklin: It’s just being me and back at home — that’s it. Just being back on the old campground; that’s how I was brought up. I came up in gospel. Like Johnnie Taylor used to say, ‘I’m an old gospel singer.’
AP: What are you going to sing?
Franklin: I’m going to sing some things from ‘Amazing Grace’ and then ‘One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism.’
AP: Are you working with Babyface on your new album?
Franklin: Clive (Davis) has talked to Face and to Danger Mouse about producing my new CD for RCA. And right now I am just waiting to hear from them to see exactly what they are going to do.
AP: What sound do you want to take on?
Franklin: Well, I’m not producing it. I’m just waiting to see what they come with. … It should be good. As long as it’s good music. I love all music. It’s got to be constructed properly.
AP: I know you’re a fan of Adele, and she’s covered some of your songs. Would you ever do a duet with her?
Franklin: I think it would be good. … She has some great material. I like her material. She’s a very fine writer. (Her songs) were all very original and all very different.
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