Head below to watch Reba McEntire, Chaka Khan, Jody Watley, Josh Groban, Judge Mathis, The Isley Brothers, and JHud share their deep respect for the Queen of Soul and reveal their fondest memories of her.
Jennifer Hudson Found the Heart of Aretha in Detroit
During a Q&A session, an audience member asked Jennifer the most interesting thing she learned about Aretha Franklin while preparing to play the iconic singer in the biopic “Respect.”
“She is definitely one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever portrayed because she has so many levels to her,” JHud responded.
“One of my favorite things is when I got to go to Detroit during the press tour,” she continued. “I feel like I got to see her heart through the people of Detroit.”
She recalled how fondly locals spoke of the Queen of Soul — not as a singer, but as a human being. “She fed us, she took care of us, she would make us dinner, cook us food,” Jennifer recalled the people of Detroit telling her.
“If you ever want to know how big Ms. Franklin’s heart was, go to Detroit and you will find out,” she added.
The Isley Brothers Remember Aretha Giving JHud the Seal of Approval
“She was my friend for 60 years,” he began. “She said, ‘Who’s gonna play my part?’” he said of who would portray Aretha in a movie about her life.
Ron’s wife responded to the Queen of Soul, “Only one person can play that role and sing. Jennifer Hudson.”
“We stayed on the phone for three or four hours after that, talking about your movie,” he added.
Reba McEntire Reveals She Was ‘Scared to Death’ of Aretha!
The country superstar divulged why she decided to cover Aretha’s classic “Respect” during various performances throughout her career, including the 1988 CMA Awards.
“I love the song, I love Aretha — she scared me to death!” she said of meeting Aretha at an event in Washington, D.C. “She’s just amazing.”
Since they both know the song so well, JHud and Reba teamed up for a “Respect” duet!
Jody Watley Taught Aretha ‘The Robot’
Jody Watley explained to JHud that she first met Aretha when she was a little girl and had no idea who Aretha was. “We reconnected when I was a dancer on ‘Soul Train’ and she wanted to learn how to do the robot.”
Jody continued, “I would go to her Encino estate and teach her how to dance, do the robot. Mostly she would cook and we would talk.”
“Throughout my career, she was always very supportive of me,” said the “Looking for a New Love” singer.
Chaka Khan Insulted Aretha the First Time They Met (and They Became Best Friends!)
Chaka Khan and Aretha Franklin were close friends for much of their lives. Chaka was in her late 20s when she met Aretha Franklin for the first time at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, and the two had a bit of a back-and-forth backstage.
“You that girl my kids won’t take off the radio,” Chaka recalled Aretha saying.
“That’s probably me,” Chaka responded to Aretha. “But I said, ‘Did you get any sleep last night?’”
“Sometimes, that’s how best friendships start,” laughed Chaka, “through insults!”
Judge Mathis Remembers His Memorable Brunch with Aretha
Judge Greg Mathis was very close with Aretha after spending a lot of time with her in their hometown of Detroit. “She was our queen,” he told Jennifer.
Judge Mathis shared one of his favorite stories involving the legendary singer, which took place at a luxury hotel in Washington, D.C.
As the TV judge explained, Aretha invited him to brunch, and he assumed it would be at the hotel’s very lavish brunch buffet. But instead, Aretha wanted to go down the block and eat at a Johnny Rockets!
“She made sure you was fed,” said JHud. “I’m sure she did!”
Josh Groban Fanned Out While Performing with Aretha
Josh Groban recalled performing at former South African President Nelson Mandela’s birthday in 2009, where he sang “You Raise Me Up” with Aretha.
“As you know extremely well, she was just the most giving artist,” he said to Jennifer. “We all knew Aretha for the legendary prowess in her voice that spanned generations.”
Like “all the greats” he has collaborated with, Josh said Aretha “was open to trying new things” with their performance. However, Josh said he learned that when Aretha’s “microphone goes to her, your microphone goes down.”
“I have nothing to offer,” he joked. “I just want to listen and be a fan this close.”