All Hail the Queen

By Evan Calbi

Aretha Franklin with Patrice Rushen backstage at a BET Walk of Fame event in 2003. (Photo courtesy of Rushen)

In her pioneering career as a GRAMMY Award-winning artist and musical director, USC Thornton faculty member Patrice Rushen has worked with a lot of great musicians—including one of the most legendary of all, Aretha Franklin.

So it wasn’t surprising last week that upon hearing of the legendary singer’s death, Rushen pulled a photo of the two of them from an album and brought it to campus to share with her students. The chair of the Popular Music program, Rushen worked with the Queen of Soul on several occasions, most notably when she was musical director for BET’s Walk of Fame event in 2003 that honored Franklin. The event featured Mary J. Blige, Seal, Alicia Keys, Norah Jones and others.

“That was the voice,” Rushen said. “I’m amazed by the clarity and the purpose of her voice. She was a singer’s singer, but she could also play the piano! She’s playing on most of her famous tracks.”

Rushen was surprised by how approachable Franklin was the first time they met. “She was so down to Earth. It was like talking to your Auntie,” she said with a laugh. “There is so much to her musicality. Her music will live on.”

TAGS: Contemporary Music, Popular Music,

Never miss a story

Subscribe to USC Thornton’s e-newsletter