Aretha Franklin wasn’t only a singer, she was a superhero. How else to clarify how she swooped in and saved the 1998 Grammy Awards?
Twenty years in the past at Radio Metropolis Music Corridor, the Queen of Soul become the Queen of Opera when she got here to the rescue of the present as a last-minute substitute for an ailing Luciano Pavarotti on the Puccini aria “Nessun dorma.” About 30 minutes into the Feb. 25, 1998, ceremony, the tenor, who was being honored as a Grammy Dwelling Legend, referred to as and advised a manufacturing assistant that he was too sick to carry out.
Franklin was already readily available to sing “Suppose” in a revival of the Blues Brothers with Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman and Jim Belushi (filling in for his late brother John). And when a pinch hitter was wanted to fill a giant gap in the lineup, Ken Ehrlich, the longtime producer of the Grammys, remembered that Franklin had sung “Nessun dorma” two nights earlier at the MusiCares occasion honoring her buddy Pavarotti.
“And I simply ran as much as her dressing room, and requested her if she would do it,” Ehrlich advised Billboard. “And he or she stated she wished to listen to the gown rehearsal. In these days, we had a boombox with a cassette. And I introduced it to her and performed it for her. When she heard it, she stated, ‘Yeah, I can do that.’ ”
And regardless of speak of Franklin doing her personal basic “(You Make Me Really feel Like) A Pure Lady” as an alternative, “Nessun dorma” went on. The efficiency was scheduled to go on in the third hour of the present, only one award presentation after her Blues Brothers quantity. However Franklin was assured she may pull off what was an elaborate manufacturing with Pavarotti’s conductor, orchestra and choir.
Regardless of the proven fact that “Nessun dorma” is written for an operatic tenor and not a soulful mezzo-soprano, as Franklin was, she nailed the efficiency, hitting the excessive B at the climax and bringing the viewers — together with an awestruck Celine Dion — to its toes.
“Aretha was completely a professional,” co-producer Tisha Fein advised Billboard. “And a few individuals didn’t know that wasn’t what we’d all the time deliberate! It was only a miracle, an absolute miracle.”