With a career that spans more than 50 years and a catalog of music that embraces gospel, rock, jazz, blues, funk, pop standards and more, Aretha Franklin earned the royal sobriquet the Queen of Soul with her passionate, expressive musicianship. Franklin's influence is expansive, her music resonating with generations, breaking down style barriers and fostering an eclectic appreciation of sonic possibilities. In celebration of Franklin's lasting impact, on Friday, November 4 at 8:30 pm, the House of Blues Cleveland will transform into a hotbed of soul, R&B and dance, as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum presents Jump To It, welcoming internationally recognized DJs MC Lyte, Mick Boogie and O-Dub to spin a lively mix of classic Aretha Franklin tracks and cuts by the soul and R&B purveyors who followed her lead.
"I can remember the first time I saw Aretha Franklin perform 'Respect' in the Blues Brothers film," says MC Lyte. "It was my favorite scene in the movie! She commanded attention with a no-nonsense attitude. I loved it!" For more than 20 years, the multi-talented MC Lyte has been a creative force in the world of hip-hop and beyond. Her rap recordings earned her two Grammy nominations, critical acclaim and commercial success, and she continues to inspire as a lecturer, author (Just My Take) and DJ, performing at major events across the country (2009 National Congress of Black Women Obama Kick-Off event, where she was honored with a Legacy Award; the 2010 Legends of Hip-Hop Concert at House of Blues in Atlantic City, New Jersey; and the 2011 Salt-n-Pepa nationwide tour). Lyte is the executive vice president and music supervisor of DuBose Music Group/DuBose Entertainment, and in June 2011, she was named president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Grammy’s Recording Academy, the first African-American woman to hold that position.
Lyte cites "Respect" ("Love the lyrics and her delivery makes you respect her!), "Think" ("love how the track is simple, allows her vocals to cut through.") and "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)" ("Simply genius! I feel her.") among her favorite Franklin songs. Lyte's Jump To It set will include "Think," "Rock Steady," "Jump," "Baby I Love You," "Get It Right," along with tunes by the O'Jays, the Spinners, and Earth Wind & Fire.
"I remember as a kid seeing Motown specials on TV – back when TV had 'musical specials' and not reality overload," says Youngstown, Ohio–native Mick Boogie (pictured, left) of first hearing and seeing Aretha Franklin. "Seeing her perform songs like 'Respect' and 'Pink Cadillac.'" In his formative years, Mick, who makes his home in New York City, connected with the revolutionary work of hip-hop DJs – from the early stylings of DJ Jazzy Jeff, Kid Capri and Stretch Armstrong, to the later mixing of DJs Drama and Green Lantern – a connection that brought him full circle, back to Aretha Franklin. "I have two favorites because they were sampled in two of my favorite hip-hop songs of all time," says Mick of the Franklin tracks that resonate most with him. "'Call Me,' which was sampled by Slum Village for "Selfish;" and 'One Step Ahead,' which Mos Def used on "Ms. Fat Booty" – classic!"
Mick channeled similar eclecticism into a series of innovative mixtapes that eventually led to collaborations with Adele, Coldplay, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Common, Eminem, Ghostface Killah, Jay-Z, Nas, Kanye West and more. Mick is a fixture at A-list DJ events from Beijing to NYC, and he promises to bring a dynamic playlist to Jump To It. "From me, you can expect a very diverse set," he says. "Everything from Aretha, of course, to James Brown, Michael Jackson, Prince, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye... I never really know what I'm going to play because it depends on the crowd, but I really have aspirations of digging deep that night."
Rounding out the evening's trifecta is DJ O-Dub AKA Oliver Wang (pictured, right). Based in Los Angeles, Wang is a noted journalist, writing about pop music, culture and politics for NPR, Vibe, LA Times, Village Voice and more. He is the co-author of Classic Material: The Hip-Hop Album Guide and maintains a popular audioblog, Soul-Sides.com. "I was born in '72 and certainly heard Aretha's music as a kid, but my first distinct memory of listening to hear was probably watching her cameo in The Blues Brothers, singing "Think" – oh-so heavy on sass and verve," he says. Wang was a radio DJ for KALX FM in Berkeley for 10 years, and he continues to DJ for various events, including Jump To It, part of the Rock Hall's American Music Masters™ week-long tribute to Aretha Franklin. He plans to include such Franklin signatures as "The Night Time Is The Right Time," "Until You Come Back To Me," "I Can't Wait Until I See My Baby's Face," "So Soon," as well as the Marvels' cover of "Rocksteady" and Otis Redding's original version of "Respect."
"All my favorite Aretha songs are ballads, from both her Columbia and Atlantic catalogs," says Wang. "There's something about how the quietness of the song contrasts with the sheer power of her voice. I love how she plays in those moments of stillness before unleashing the full fury of her instrument. Like her song says, she's always 'giving you something you can feel.'"