By Michael Daniels Journal Staff Reporter
On Monday, March 25th the Art Tatum Center presented a special program at the Kent Branch Library Auditorium entitled, “The Soul of a Queen”, a free concert to celebrate the 77th birthday of Aretha Franklin.
Ms. Franklin who was born on March 25, 1942, and passed away in August of 2018, she left behind a legacy of music and civil right activism that will never be forgotten. Even though many have followed behind her, there will never be another one like Aretha Franklin. She was the undisputed, “Queen of Soul” who surpassed all generations and cultural boundaries with her music.
To pay tribute to her in a style only fitting for a queen the center chose a former Toledo musician and his band the Sir Kalvin Hughes Trio with guest vocalist Theresa Harris to perform for the program. Mr. Hughes who is a big fan of Aretha Franklin and an extraordinary musician himself in his own right had a personal story to tell the audience about Aretha Franklin’s Toledo connection.
After working as the musician at Warren AME Church here in Toledo he accepted a job as minister of music at Aretha Franklin’s father’s Church, New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit. ‘My whole objective in taking the job was to one day meet the Queen of Soul and let her hear me play, he said. ‘Every year she puts on a gospel concert at the church and she is there in person.’
Sure enough, the time for the concert and sure enough the Queen of Soul was there and heard Mr. Hughes play, ‘Evidently she liked what she heard,’ he said. ‘because later when her regular organist took ill, she called me and asked me to accompany her to Philadelphia’ when she performed for the Pope. Following that, I became her organist and went with her on tour. ”When I applied for the job at New Bethel, I had no idea that one day I’d be playing for Aretha Franklin, I mostly just wanted to meet her, said Mr. Hughes. ‘Aretha Franklin is special to me because she opened up so many doors for me that I never thought would happen, and she took me to higher heights. I never would have gotten those opportunities if had not been for the Queen of Soul’, he said. ‘Working with her was phenomenal.’
After telling his story of his life with Aretha, Mr. Hughes and his Trio played a little lite jazz to warm the audience up. Then he invited guest vocalist Theresa Harris to join them and they tore into Aretha Franklin’s hits and standards. This was the moment the audience had been waiting for and everyone was thrilled.
The evening program began with an introduction from Brett Collins the Librarian Specialist for the Art Tatum African American Resource Center. He reminded everyone of the importance of Aretha Franklin’s music and her work in the community saying, ‘ it’s never too late to honor someone like Aretha Franklin who’s done so much for our souls, it’s important to honor legends because they are the ones who lay the footprints down for us to follow’.
He also informed everyone of the upcoming documentary Amazing Grace, the story of the making of Aretha Franklin’s largest selling album by the same name.