TV Land will honor Aretha Franklin this weekend when the network presents the Queen of Soul with its Music Icon Award, airing Sunday April 29 at 9 p.m. ET. John Legend was on hand to serenade and present the singer with her award during the awards' taping April 14 in New York City. Franklin also performed a nearly 20-minute set for the room of classic TV legends that spanned R&B, classical and gospel, from hits "Chain of Fools" and "Respect" to Handel's "Ombra Mai Fu" to a spiritual finale of "I Came To Lift Him Up."
In addition to Franklin, house band The B-52's kept the crowd on their feet with renditions of hits like "Love Shack" and "Rock Lobster." Other TV Land honorees this year include cast reunions of "Laverne & Shirley," "Murphy Brown," "In Living Color" and an appearance by "Pee Wee's Playhouse" star Paul Reubens.
It's been a busy 2012 for Ms. Franklin, who began the year by calling off her wedding to fiancé Willie Wilkerson ("We were moving a little too fast," she told the Associated Press), paid tribute to friend Whitney Houston at Radio City Music Hall, shifted her representation from William Morris Endeavor to ICM in April and, last but not least, announced at her 70th birthday party in March that she had re-signed with Clive Davis for an upcoming album on RCA. Her 2011 album "A Woman Falling Out Of Love," released independently on the singer's Aretha Records, is also about to be released digitally on outlets like iTunes following a 1-year retail exclusive with Wal-Mart. The album sold 43,000 copies during its first 12 months, according to SoundScan, peaking at No. 15 on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart.
Billboard caught up with the music legend backstage at the TV Land Awards just moments after her performance to learn more about her upcoming projects.
You've received many awards in your career. What does being recognized as an icon by TV Land mean to you?
As I said on-stage, like John Legend said, "we're just ordinary people." When I come off stage I go home and do the same things everybody else does. It is indeed an honor and a pleasure to receive the icon award. Professionally, it's wonderful.
Who were some of your personal icons when you were starting your career?
Oh, some icons, OK. Sarah Vaughan, Ella. Let's see… Judy Garland, one of my favorite singers. Sinatra, Tony Bennett - and he's still doing it. Miss Etta [James]. Etta was wonderful -- we came up together. When I first sung out in California she was out there at that time I was a teenager and she was quite young herself.
I also understand you've reunited with Clive Davis for an upcoming album. What can you tell us about that project?
Yes I have. Ahhh, I can tell you its gonna be better than its ever been, I can tell you that. He's talking to the great writers now. We're looking for the great songs. And we're going to do it again one more time.
Do you have a wishlist of collaborators or songwriters?
I'd love to get some Ne-Yo songs on there. Kenny Edmonds I've been talking to and he has some songs that might be a good fit.
Another project that's been in the works in awhile is your biopic, which you put on hold recently. Where does that stand currently?
It's actually still very active, we've just been having a lot of conversations about who would play my dad and my family. So, right now it's a Mexican standoff.
So, maybe another year or two before we see some movement?
Oh no, it won't be that long. I've got another call on the biopic so it won't be that long if we're going to do it.
Any other projects coming up that we should know about?
I'm recording with my son Eddie [Franklin] -- he's got a terrific R&B CD coming out I'd expect in July, and I produced some of it couple other producers out of Detroit who did a couple of things.
You've been flirting with doing another gospel album for quite some time. Might we see a gospel project from you one of these days?
Oh no honey, I don't flirt with gospel. Gospel is a mainstay. That's my background, and those are my roots. Oh of course, you're gonna always see another gospel album.