Berklee's Singers Showcase Celebrates the Music of Aretha Franklin

Franklin’s longtime bass player, Chuck Rainey, will join students on stage.

March 20, 2019

On Thursday, April 11, Berklee's Signature Series presents Singers Showcase: Aretha, Queen of Soul at the Berklee Performance Center at 8:00 p.m. 

Produced by Maureen McMullanBerklee’s concert and event producer, with faculty trumpeter Bobby Gallegos as musical director, the concert will feature a full rhythm section, horns, background vocalists, dancers, and an international cast of more than 80 students. Several special guests will also be on hand, including Chuck Rainey, Aretha Franklin’s longtime bass player.

“We are deeply honored to welcome Chuck Rainey to join our cast on stage and play some of his all-time favorite Aretha songs, including 'Rock Steady,' which he recorded in 1971, adding his unmistakably funky bass groove, ghost notes, and high-register licks,” says McMullan. “Rainey is one of the most recorded and influential electric bassists since the inception of the instrument.”

Rainey’s unique feel and rhythmic style can be found on thousands of songs. In a career spanning more than 50 years as a session player and leading his own bands, he collaborated with a who’s who of musicians and artists, from Louis Armstrong, Quincy Jones '51, and Nina Simone to Roberta Flack, the Jackson 5, and Steely Dan. Rainey is also known for his distinctive bass lines on the 1970s television theme songs for Sanford and SonBarney Miller, and The Jeffersons.

The tribute concert will highlight the inspirational and powerful songs that became the soundtrack to countless people's lives, including “Respect,” “Think,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools,” “Amazing Grace," “I Say a Little Prayer,” “I Knew You Were Waiting,” and many more. 

The performance will showcase faculty vocalists Gabrielle Goodman, Jeff Ramsey, and Nedelka Prescod as well as original literary remarks from Carolyn Wilkins, professor of ensembles and published author. Karen Bell, academic assistant to the dean of the Professional Performance Division, will emcee the show. 

Franklin, who passed away in August 2018, was one of the few artists who not only defined their times, but also transcended them. She became a monumental figure for social change as a civil rights activist, an icon for feminism, and a symbol of hope that helped define the American experience. In 2005, Franklin was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush, and in 2009 she stepped onto the National Mall to sing “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” at Barack Obama’s first inauguration. 

Over her six-decade career, the undisputed “Queen of Soul” had 20 no. 1 hits, sold more than 75 million records, and earned 18 Grammy Awards and 44 Grammy nominations. She released 19 albums in the 1960s, with 11 of them released during the two-year period of 1967 to 1969. In 1987, Franklin was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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