Thursday, February 16, 2012

Aretha Franklin remembers Whitney Houston during special Charlotte concert

There was already excitement over legendary singer Aretha Franklin performing Feb. 13 at McGlohon Theater in Spirit Square as part of the private concert series, Music with Friends. But when Franklin’s goddaughter, Whitney Houston, died a few days beforehand, a national media frenzy broke out because it would be Franklin’s first concert since the sad news.

“I’ve been in this business since 1973 and I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Larry Farber of EastCoast Entertainment, who’s also co-founder of Music With Friends. “ABC, NBC, all the networks – everyone was calling because they wanted to be there to see what she would do.”

It turned out to be a magical, heartfelt evening, and freelance photographer Daniel Coston was there taking photos for the Observer. He has a wonderful description of the evening on his blog, Coston Chronicles, at

The first half of the show was upbeat, and Franklin showed she can still nail the notes in her iconic songs. After a break, she sat down at the piano and took the audience on a tribute to Houston.

“It really was like being thrown back into an old Baptist church 30 or 40 years ago,” Farber said.

Franklin, whose style is rooted in gospel music, started playing the chords to “I Will Always Love You.” As Coston described it, Franklin began to rearrange the chords into a gospel hymn, singing to God and to Houston in a call-and-response manner. “There are gates at the entrance to heaven,” Franklin sang, “and they swung open for her.”

“It was understated and real,” Coston told me later. “She was really working out her emotions on stage, then she thanked the audience for sharing the moment with her.”

For Farber, it was a highlight for the club, which presents three concerts a year by legendary musicians in an intimate setting for 600. There are 30 memberships left. The initial fee is $500; annual membership dues are $1,650 per person and include the concerts, cocktail parties and after parties.

For more info, contact Becky Mitchener, director of development for Music with Friends, at 704-907-1806 or e-mail her at Details are also at For more photos, go to the Scene & Heard slideshow at