Though she's been recording music for nearly four decades, Aretha Franklin — the reigning "Queen of Soul" — has just released her first-ever holiday album.
"Christmas is so special for so many reasons,' Franklin tells NPR's Farai Chideya. "Each time it comes around, you hear very, very little on me. I'm not in the mix. ...There's nothing on Aretha. [I thought], 'Please, I've got to record some Christmas music.' "
Her new album, This Christmas Aretha, features soulful takes on standards like "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and "Ave Maria," as well as Franklin's personal favorites, "The Lord Will Make a Way" and "Angels We Have Heard On High."
'Chitlins Are Off The Menu'
Franklin said most of her family's holiday traditions are centered on cooking, but one dish will be missing from the table this holiday season.
"Chitlins are off the menu," she said. "They were keeping my weight up. Chitlins have been canceled off of my list, and I know my fans and friends are screaming, 'Hallelujah!' I want to be around for a long time, so let's drop the chitlins."
But the macaroni and cheese and collard greens will stay, Franklin said.
She offered an unusual tip on cleaning greens, learned years ago from a member of her church: "She said, 'Just put a little bit of soap powder in your greens — something like Cheer or Tide.' I'm not kidding. That's how dirty they are. You won't believe how much dirt and grit comes out of those greens!"