Queen of Soul and her mates

Times Staff Writer

MOST people say hello on the phone, but the Queen of Soul comes on the line and announces that an official audience has begun. “Hello, this is Miss Franklin calling. . . .”

Aretha Franklin, 65, has been in the spotlight since her youth. Along the way, she’s recorded with some of the famous voices of the 20th century, which led to her new CD, “Jewels in the Crown: All-Star Duets With the Queen.” She scoffed when asked her philosophy of sharing a studio -- “I just sing, that’s all I ever need to do” -- but she did speak of her peers on the album with fondness and, of course, r-e-s-p-e-c-t.

“That’s one of my favorites. It just swings, it just grooves. He was an absolute icon. We first met when he introduced me at the Oscars [in 1969] when I first came out to L.A. and performed ‘Funny Girl’ on the show. Introduced by a legend like Frank Sinatra? Please, that is starting at the top.”

Frank Sinatra “What Now My Love” (1993)


George Benson “Love All the Hurt Away” (1981)

“I was living in Encino when I recorded that one. You know, there are certain men, they have a magnetic charisma and class. They’ve just got it. Like Billy Dee Williams and George Benson.”

Elton John “Through the Storm” (1989)

“It was in New York and it was the first time we had ever met. We had dual pianos set up. It went wonderfully. I’m spending this year and next working on my piano, returning to it. I’ve given so much time to my voice and now I want to return to the piano that was such a part of my early career.”

Luther Vandross “Doctor’s Orders” (1991)

“I remember it was in New York and Luther was upset that day. I can’t remember what it was about. He was on the phone and then angry and in the hallway. I knew I had to try to smooth things with him, to help get him out of that mood. And of course it went fine. It was such a loss when he died.”

Keith Richards “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” (1986)

“We did it for the film [of the same title], and Keith and Whoopi Goldberg came to Detroit and it was just a great time -- we had a great groove going in the studio. I saw him not long ago, in a hotel lobby in Los Angeles. He looked well. It was right after he fell out of that tree. I asked if he was OK and he just cracked up. I thought, ‘Well, he must be fine.’ ”

Whitney Houston “It Isn’t, It Wasn’t, It Ain’t Never Gonna Be” (1989)

“Whitney was out to Detroit at her place about that time. I remember when it came time, she got a little upset with one of her parts of the song. The song goes back and forth between an older, experienced woman and a younger woman, and they’re going back and forth over some man. There was some things that Whitney would not naturally say to me out of her respect to me, some things she felt were negative. I told her to just treat them like lines in a movie, take on the role of the song. Afterward, we got some nice hot soul food -- it was us and CeCe Winans. Whitney was fine by then.”