When it comes to music’s biggest and best divas, it takes one to know one.
“There’s a lot of great singers out here,” Franklin tells PEOPLE diplomatically while celebrating her 74th birthday at the Ritz Carlton in New York City on Thursday, joined by Clive Davis, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Tamron Hall.
But when asked who she’d want to pass the diva torch to, Franklin’s answer was simply, no one. “I’m here!” she said with a smile. “I’m not going anywhere. This is what I do.”
These days, Franklin says she’s feeling great and not planning to hand over the mic any time. “I’m doing very well,” she says. “I’m going to be around. I’ll be like Perry Coma [was], somewhere on a couch laying down with a microphone, still singing.”
For now, Franklin announced that she’s busy working on her upcoming biopic. “I’ve talked to the person that is going to play me,” she says of giving her hard won stamp of approval to a young actress for the still untitled project. “I’m not going to say who I chose, but I’ve talked to her and she’s ready and I’m happy with her.”
Friend and legendary record executive Davis says it’s no wonder Franklin is irreplaceable. “There’s very few, if any, who you know will be studied centuries from now,” he says, noting she moved President Obama to tears with a performance just last year. “Whatever Aretha Franklin does is history.”
After being serenaded by her guests with Stevie Wonder’s rendition of Happy Birthday, Franklin said of the party, “It’s the culmination of a lot of work and I’m a little tired, but I’m still enjoying all of it. Every birthday is a gift. Every day is a gift.”