Aretha Franklin does "own thing" with new album

Fri Mar 19, 2010 5:54pm EDT
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By Louis Hau

NEW YORK (Billboard) - As Aretha Franklin celebrates her 68th birthday this month, she shows no sign of slowing down.

She plans to sing arias this summer in three charity concerts with former Secretary of State -- and accomplished concert pianist -- Condoleezza Rice. In September, she'll start holding master singing classes in Southfield, Michigan, a suburb of her native Detroit; she hopes to bring the effort to New York next year.

The legendary singer even reports making progress in conquering her well-known fear of flying, saying that she plans to take a short flight in the near future -- "probably Chicago or Cleveland" -- and work up from there. That could eventually clear the way for her to perform again in Europe for the first time in years. "Hopefully this summer," she says optimistically.

And nearly seven years since the release of her last nonseasonal album, "So Damn Happy," Lady Soul is releasing a new studio set -- surprisingly, on her own label, Aretha's Records. Franklin expects it out by the first week of April.

The timing of the album's release comes not long after Snickers began airing a TV ad starring Franklin and Liza Minnelli, who are shown poking fun at their diva reputations.

But during a phone interview with Billboard, Franklin showed nary a trace of divadom, instead fielding questions in a forthright manner befitting a veteran performer who also happens to manage her own career.

Billboard: Your new album is called "A Woman Falling Out of Love." What inspired the title?

Aretha Franklin: It was just a relationship that I had been in that did not quite finalize itself the way that I hoped it would. You have relationships -- some work, some don't, you fall in love, you fall out of love.   Continued...