Transcript for Celebrities, fans remember Aretha Franklin, who died at age 76: Part 1
Reporter: For anyone needing guidance in the greatness of the late Aretha Franklin, the 2015 Kennedy center honors makes the ideal case. ??? You make me feel ??? Reporter: Aretha taking the audience T church with "You make me feel like a natural woman." ???Ou make me feel like a natural woman ??? What Aretha had, it's something you can't be taught. No one had more soul than that woman. Reporter: Aretha Franklin died on Thursday at age 76 in her hometown of Detroit, a result of advanced pancreatic cancer. In her final days, her family gathered to say good-bye. I had a chance to sit next to her and just hold her hand, just to sit there and talk to her, let her know that she's loved, you know. On behalf of the family, we really appreciated her. I lt her squeeze my hand, I felt aunty squeeze my hand, I knew she heard and understood everything I was saying. Reporter: While her family mourns their matriarch, an outpouring from fans. Elton John calling her one of his favorite pianists. Kelly Clarkson, there will never be another like her, she was truly special. Nicki Minaj and Alicia keys paid tribute to Franklin on their radio show. It's no secret she's an icon. She's an icon of icons. Talk about queens, she was definitely a queen. She stepped into the room and everybody bowed all the way down. ??? Jesus ??? Reporter: Among this royal court at VH1's "Divas live" reigned sprooem. Aretha Franklin is at her heart a gospel singer. She brought gospel to the masses. Reporter: 18 grammy awards, 17 top 10 hits. From "Spanish Harlem." ??? Soft sweet and dreamy ??? ??? the moment I wake up before I put on my makeup ??? Reporter: To "I say a little prayer." ??? I'm praying for you baby baby ??? She can sing quietly, she can do something louder, she can do something pop, gospel, soulful, she can be gritty, she can be ethereal and delicate. I mean, like whatever you want. Aretha was crazy to work with. I mean, her process is not like anything I've ever seen before. First of all, she's a firecracker, you know. She's smart as a whip. And she knows everything about everything. A lot of artists think they know everything but they actually does. Reporter: She'd begun singing in her father's church in Detroit. She talked about that in an interview on "60 minutes" from 1990. Whenever we were having services, if I was going to sing they would have me stand on a little cha and sing. Reporter: She'd first be heard on record at 14 years of age in 1956 with a gospel standard "The day is past and gone." ?????? Because she came out of the church, you have this kind of praise and worship optimism of make a joyful noise. Reporter: Aretha attempted to crossover into pop but was initially unsuccessful, until producer Jerry Wexler and atlantic records helped unlock her greatness in early 1967 with "I never loved a man the way I love you." ??? Loved a man the way that I love you ??? Reporter: It set up a series of monumental hits through 1968, among them "Chain of fools." ??? Chain chain chain ??? ??? chain of fools ??? Reporter: "Since you've been gone." ??? Since you've been gone ??? ??? looking out at the morning rain ??? Reporter: And "You make me feel like a natural woman." ??? I used to feel so unspired ??? For a black woman to say that, and to have her hair in an afro, and to be out there just being her beautiful self and her most natural state, that was just a different way for black people and for America as a whole to even envision love. Reporter: All the while Aretha was constantly rediscovering herself. I've still got to find out who and what I really am. Don't know yet. I'm trying to find the answer. ??? R-e-s-e-c-t ??? Reporter: It was her idea to spell out those letters in "Respect." ?????? Sheasn't asking for respect, she was demanding respect. That became this woman's anthem. It moved into the civil rights movement. People marched to that music. People asked for respect. Literally, figuratively, theoretically. And she was central to th. Reporter: Civil rights icon congressman John Lewis wrote in a statement, when we would be released from jail after a nonviolent protest, we might go to a late-nightclub and let the music of Aretha Franklin fill our hearts. Her music gave us a greater sense of determination, to never give up or give in, and to keep the faith. And when that faith was tested with the death of martin Luther king Jr. In 1968, Aretha's voice once again carried them through. ?????? ??? oh oh all we need is you Jesus ??? There was no shondaland, there was no "In living color," there was none of that happening. We had to grab at images to try to put together like who we wanted to be. And like put them together and figure it out. And Aretha was central. ??? You better think think about what you're trying to do to me ??? Reporter: In 1980 when she appeared in the movie "The blues brothers" she garnered a whole new following. ??? Oh freedom freedom freedom freedom ??? Seeing her in this movie that went to number one, "The blues brothers," really got -- I mean, a lot of people come into the Aretha movement on that. Like, oh, that woman. She's dope. ??? You know we're riding on the freeway of love against our backs ??? Reporter: She returned to the pop charts in the mid '80s with the buoyant "Freeway of love." The duet with George Michael "I knew you were waiting." ??? Knew you were waiting ??? ??? knew you were waiting for me ??? Reporter: A do iful diva feeling the love once more. Her career reinvigorated under the hand of famed record executive Clive Davis. Part of what Clive is good at and, you know what you're going to do when you get to be older --. ?????? Reporter: At 56 years old, Aretha Franklin would appear in this music video with anger half her age. The song "A Roth is still a rose" would garner a grammy nomination for west r&b song. She had the the ability to be flexible and fluid with different genres. That was one of the things that made her so unique. Reporter: That same year she'd surprise us all when she stepped in at the last second for an indisposed opera singer Luciano part of ratty and lay out the crowd with the aria. ?????? Reporter: With the depth of her soulfulness beyond question, Aretha could display a playful side as she did with Diane sawyer in 2000. I like to do some -- this kind of spoon because it keeps you from having lumps. I always get lumpy. Very slow. You have to do it very slow, almost work through the grits so it doesn't form a lump. Oh, there was a lump. What is that? No lumps. Really, no lumps. Men don't like lumps. Not those kind, anyway. Reporter: She'd earn so many honors. The fst woman inducted into the rock 'N' roll hall of fame. How did you feel when you first heard the news? I was highly flattered, absolutely flattered. It's a wonderful feeling to be alongside your contemporaries and to be the first woman just was kind of overwhelming. Reporter: President after president chose the queen of soul to appear in front of large national audiences. From Jimmy Carter -- ??? god bless America ??? Reporter: To both of the Clinton inaugural events. ??? And I was not afraid and dreams were made ??? Reporter: She'd be awarded the presidential medal of freedom in 2005. And highlighted president Obama's inauguration in 2009. ??? My country 'tis of thee ??? Reporter: Just last year her hometown of Detroit would name a street in her honor. Detroit has been with me ever since then, they were there when no one else knew who I was. And I've been with them every step of the way. Reporter: Tonight her millions of fans have so many vivid moments to treasure. Like this one. ??? You make me feel ??? Reporter: At the piano, just as she was for the song's original recording. Then rising, taking the Mike to center stage. ??? You make me feel ??? Reporter: Slipping that mk to the floor like a boss. ??? You make me feel ??? ??? you make me feel like ??? Reporter: The great Aretha, wrecking the house one final time. For "Nightline," I'm Chris Connelly in Los Angeles.
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