Aretha Franklin's Fellow Divas Live Stars Honor Late Singer: 'You Will Forever Have Our Respect'
Céline Dion, Mariah Carey, Gloria Estefan, Shania Twain, and Carole King were among the many musicians paying tribute to the late Aretha Franklin, their fellow VH1 Divas Live 1998 star
Céline Dion, Mariah Carey, Gloria Estefan, Shania Twain, and Carole King were among the many stars paying tribute to the Aretha Franklin on Thursday, following the Queen of Soul’s death from pancreatic cancer at the age of 76.
Their tributes were especially sweet since all five had shared the stage with Franklin in 1998, during the inaugural outing of VH1’s famed Divas Live special.
The evening — a benefit support the channel’s Save the Music Foundation — became iconic television, spawning an album and over 10 subsequent Divas Live specials. And while the concert was filled with memorable moments, it was its finale that stands out, with all six singers joining together for an epic performance of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”
Though King and Gerry Goffin wrote it, Franklin made the song a hit in 1967 and the song stayed with her for her entire career. She even sang it at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors in tribute to award-recipient King, making audience member Barack Obama cry.
But back in 1998, Franklin shared the song with her fellow Divas — each trading verses and riffs throughout the tune.
Of course, Franklin was still the star of the show, holding center court and interjecting her own inflections throughout.
She had already sung two songs on her own, including “A Rose Is Still a Rose” and “Here We Go Again,” but this was the song fans were waiting for.
The rest of the Divas kept up, but when Franklin took the Beacon Theatre to church at the song’s end, they could do nothing but sit back and watch.
“There was only one real diva onstage: Ms. Franklin, who presented the true diva’s combination of a remarkable voice, a commanding presence and a whimsical, imperious assumption of power,” The New York Times wrote in their official review. “Ms. Franklin’s voice stormed the heavens, snaked through elaborate melismas and offered tremulous praise, continuing long after the credits rolled on the telecast. The stage was hers, and everyone knew it.”
It’s clear Dion, Carey, Estefan, Twain and King didn’t feel upstaged, though. On Friday, each remembered Franklin — many using photos from their Divas Live performances in their posts.
“I’m deeply saddened to learn that Aretha Franklin has passed,” Dion wrote, with a picture from that number. “She was an unbelievable artist, who inspired me and millions of others. She was the most soulful and inspirational singer of our time… there will never be anyone like her. I had the great privilege of performing with Aretha… it was truly one of the greatest moments of my career. I send my prayers and condolences to her family and loved ones.”
Twain linked to a YouTube video of their performance on Twitter, writing, “An unbelievable woman and voice. It was an honor to meet and perform with the Queen of Soul. RIP Aretha Franklin ❤️💔”
“What a life. What a legacy! So much love, respect and gratitude. R.I.P.,” said King, sharing a picture of her and Twin from the Kennedy Center Honors.
Estefan also posting a photo from another time she and Franklin were on stage together. “For as long as I can remember, Aretha Franklin has been the absolute zenith, the guiding light, the master for any girl that aspired to sing or even just appreciated someone at the top of their game,” she wrote. “I was blessed to have sung with her on more than one occasion and each time I felt that I was in the presence of musical royalty that would forever raise the bar and set the standard. Long live the Queen of Soul through her extraordinary & singular voice and her indelible music.”
Carey, who also performed a duet of “Chain of Fools” with Franklin on Divas Live, posted a gallery of photos of them together on the show (and after the show).
“Aretha Franklin. The Queen of Soul. The Icon. The ultimate singers’ singer. The greatest singer and musician of my lifetime,” she wrote. “The power of your voice in music and in civil rights blew open the door for me and so many others. You were my inspiration, my mentor and my friend. You showed me I could sing the songs I wanted to sing and bring God with me. You’ve inspired millions everywhere yet never left home, never left church.”
“Today the entire world mourns your home-going and celebrates all the brilliance you left behind,” she added. “I will forever cherish the moments I spent in your presence. Your indelible impact was earned not only by your incomparable voice but by your bigger than life personality, wit and humor. I say a BIG prayer for you. You will forever have all our RESPECT. Love, Mariah ♥️”
RELATED VIDEO: Aretha Franklin Dead at 76: Celebrities Pay Tribute to the Queen of Soul
PEOPLE reported on Monday that Franklin was in the midst of a health crisis, with a friend of the artist explaining that the singer has “been ill for a long time” and her loved ones have been warned her “death is imminent.”
Later in the day, Franklin’s nephew Tim told PEOPLE that his aunt was surrounded by her loved ones and resting at home. “She’s alert, laughing, teasing, able to recognize people,” Tim said. “Family is there with her. She’s home.”
The legendary singer died Thursday morning of advance pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, her publicist confirmed to PEOPLE.