The fourth time I saw Aretha Franklin live was at Radio City Music Hall In New York City. It was the day before Easter, March 22, 2008. It would be the first of many Radio City Aretha shows for me, where she always brought the house down. On that night, she was feeling it with quite the setlist. She hit her jazz, gospel, and of course so much of the soul that made her queen. She sang “My Funny Valentine”, “Moody’s Mood (For Love)”, “Precious Memories” and Keyshia Cole’s then-number one “I Remember” into her set. As a special treat, like she’d done so many times before, Cissy Houston was behind Aretha providing background vocals.
For her encore, Aretha did something rare: she sat back down at the piano, which she typically did mid-show for one to two songs (She’d done one at the piano on this particular evening). As she sat down she said “I always watched this at home, and I vowed to be here on this special day sometime. Looks like I’m gonna do it tomorrow.”
She began playing, and broke into a soulful take on Irving Berlin’s classic “Easter Parade”. Her arrangement is classic Aretha: focused on her at the piano, tempoed to allow her to take vocal liberties with the melody. It was a barely-3-minute rendition, but it was beautiful. I’m excited to share the audio I took of that performance below. Listen close, and you’ll hear a child’s voice talking at the beginning and end. The people sitting next to us brought their two kids to the show. They were no more than 6 or 7 years old, right around the age I was when I first heard Aretha.
Listen to Aretha serenade Radio City Music Hall with “Easter Parade”