Aretha Franklin Was Determined To Get 'My Country, 'Tis of Thee' Right Franklin performed at President Obama's inauguration in 2009, but she wasn't happy with the final results.

Aretha Franklin Was Determined To Get 'My Country, 'Tis of Thee' Right

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MARTIN: Now it's time for our Wisdom Watch - a conversation with leaders who've gone before us, someone with experience and knowledge, not just smart, but wise. Today we talk to a woman who needs no introduction, known around the globe, a musical icon, yes, she demands our respect.

(Soundbite of song, "Respect")

Ms. ARETHA FRANKLIN (Musician): (Singing) R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Take care, TCB. Oh.

MARTIN: Yes, the one and only Queen of Soul, Ms. Aretha Franklin. The Grammy Award winner continues to make music and history as she did on the day of President Barack Obama's inauguration.

(Soundbite of song, "My Country 'Tis of Thee")

Ms. FRANKLIN: (Singing) My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

MARTIN: Ms. Franklin knows a hit when she hears it and when she sings it, and that's why she's releasing a new recording of "My Country 'Tis of Thee." And the Queen is with us now. Welcome, Ms. Franklin.

Ms. FRANKLIN: Thank you.

MARTIN: When did you find out you would be singing at the inauguration? What was that like?

Ms. FRANKLIN: Oh my god, it was like, oh my god.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FRANKLIN: Maybe about three weeks prior to the inauguration I got a call and was told that I had been invited to sing at the swearing in. Oh my god, oh my god.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: You sound like you were excited. You were as excited as we were.

Ms. FRANKLIN: I couldn't hardly sleep at night. I was, like, jumping, just excited, and I couldn't hardly settle down after the first night or two.

MARTIN: Why was it so exciting for you? You've had many, many honors in your time.

Ms. FRANKLIN: I've had many, many honors, but that was unparalleled, I think.

MARTIN: What do you think made it so special?

Ms. FRANKLIN: That would only happen one time in history and it happened.

MARTIN: Was it just the fact of speaking at an inauguration or this inauguration?

Ms. FRANKLIN: They both would've been terrifically exciting, but particularly because this was so historical, and because it will never happen again. And I thank God and Mr. Obama that I was there and played a significant role in it -a supporting role.

MARTIN: I hope this isn't a ridiculous question, but I have to ask, were you nervous?

Ms. FRANKLIN: No, I wasn't nervous. I was very, very cold, extremely cold. I had been checking the temperatures long before I left home. I said, well, okay, that should be okay. I know it's outside, and I rarely sing outside, but I think that'll be okay. Checking the national weather, they were saying 37 is the average temperature in D.C. at that time of year on that day - somewhere between 37 and 40.

I said okay, that sounds pretty good. I think that'll be all right. And I got up that morning, checked the weather one more time. It was 19 degrees. I said, oh no, oh no. I knew how cold that was going to be, and I thought that it would have an effect on my voice, and it did.

MARTIN: I wanted to ask you that, did you make any special preparations to warm up your voice or how did you try to protect your voice?

Ms. FRANKLIN: I did everything I could to guarantee my voice would be where I wanted it to be and where it should've been, but Mother Nature just said, I don't think so. So I just - I got so many requests, though, even still, so many requests after that asking would I record it, was I going to record it. And I said, absolutely, because I just wasn't happy with my performance that morning. And I just rushed right in the studio to do the commemorative.

And 40, 50 years from now, people can play it for themselves - the younger adults and older for their grandchildren, their children's children, and look back at that moment in time - that one moment in time.

MARTIN: Let's play a little bit, shall we? Let's just play it, just have a little taste.


(Soundbite of song, "My Country 'Tis of Thee")

Ms. FRANKLIN: (Singing) My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, you thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims' pride, from every, every, every mountainside let freedom ring.

MARTIN: All right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: I have to tell you, though, I was out there that day, as were - with many of my colleagues - and I think about two million other people - I don't know too many people who thought your original performance was lacking, other than you.

Ms. FRANKLIN: I wasn't happy with it. Everyone else pre-recorded. I said, I should've prerecorded, but I didn't. I didn't even know that they had prerecorded until I heard it on TV later. And then I said, heck, that's what I should've done.

MARTIN: Were you able to recapture the emotion of that day - the specialness that you felt?

Ms. FRANKLIN: Oh, absolutely. I just went to that moment. So it is the absolute same thing that I would've sung.

MARTIN: I would be remiss if I did not ask you about your fabulous hat.


MARTIN: How did that come about?

Ms. FRANKLIN: You know, I just heard that the hat is just going through the roof in Detroit, I guess, and other places. I know that people have called from Spain and Europe and different other places about the hat and that's fabulous that he had sold 5,000 hats here locally.

MARTIN: But they're not the same hat. I think he made it clear that it was not going to be the same hat.

Ms. FRANKLIN: It's a copy of the hat.

MARTIN: It's a copy of the hat.

Ms. FRANKLIN: A copy. I'm going to take my hat, the original, to the Smithsonian some time, like, in the next two, three weeks to be installed in the Presidential Library.

MARTIN: Wow. Are you going to be sad to part with it?

Ms. FRANKLIN: Yes, you know it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FRANKLIN: You know it, but I can always stop by and see it. Maybe they would give it to me on loan.

MARTIN: That's right. How did the design come about? Was that your vision or did you embellish on something that he'd already come up with? Or…

Ms. FRANKLIN: I did. I did. I asked him - there was too many rhinestones on the bow for the early morning hour. I said, take all of the rhinestones off, but leave just a touch of the stones, just outline the bow with the stones and kind of tilt it in another direction - just aesthetics were better for me.

MARTIN: I did want to ask, since it's Women's History Month, and you are a role model for many women artists, as well as people in other walks of life - are there some women who particularly inspire you?

Ms. FRANKLIN: A lot of women, yes, that I absolutely appreciate: Maxine Waters, Sheila Jackson, Barbara Jordan was one of my favorite people, Hillary Clinton I like a lot, and I think she's really got it going on - very, very sharp. And just many other women, yes.

MARTIN: Well, what is next for you, my Queen? Having climbed so many mountains, what is next?

Ms. FRANKLIN: For me, I'm having fall classes for singers. I'm taking some students. And my granddaughter is going to be one of my first students - her name is Victory Aretha - and my son, Eddie, are going to be my first students, my first two. And then I'm going to hold auditions for other select singers.

MARTIN: The multi award-winning singer, songwriter, the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin joined us from her home in Detroit. Thank you so much.

Ms. FRANKLIN: Thank you.

(Soundbite of song, "My Country 'Tis of Thee")

Ms. FRANKLIN: (Singing) Our fathers' God, to thee, author of liberty, to thee…

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