Melinda Doolittle has performed as a backup singer for musical legends such as Michael McDonald, Aretha Franklin and Aaron Neville, and finishd third on the sixth season of American Idol. Doolittle has also performed at the White House, the Musicians Hall of Fame, the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall, and she has shared the stage with Peter Cetera, Cyndi Lauper, the Boston Pops Orchestra and more.
Doolittle's debut album, Coming Back to You (2009), produced by Grammy-nominated Mike Mangini, garnered positive reviews from critics, including The New York Times, which noted that the album "succeeds mightily." Doolittle recently penned an autobiography, Beyond Me (2010) and is currently in the studio writing and recording songs for the release of her next album. This week, the Rock Hall caught up with Doolite, who will perform at the Aretha Franklin tribute concert at PlayhouseSquare's State Theatre on November 5.
Rock Hall: What is your first memory of hearing Aretha Franklin's music?
Melinda Doolittle: I remember being a young girl and my Daddy playing "Respect" for me. I loved that there was a song that made it okay to be sassy. That was the only time I was allowed to wag my finger in my Daddy's face and move my neck from side to side. So, I have Ms. Franklin to thank for my sassy side.
RH: What are some of your favorite Aretha Franklin songs?
MD: If I had to choose, I would say "Respect," "Natural Woman," "Since You've Been Gone," "Until You Come Back To Me," "Ain't No Way" and "Wonderful" are my favorites, but I can't think of a song I don't love by Aretha Franklin!
RH: What about Aretha Franklin's style most resonates with you as a vocalist?
MD: My favorite part of her delivery is that she has this amazing way of sounding totally relaxed, but somehow she's still hitting you with the most incredible wall of sound, raw emotion and skill that is unmatched. I'm in awe of her gift and could not be more honored to be a part of this special event.
On Saturday, November 5, at PlayhouseSquare's State Theatre, Melinda Doolittle will perform alongside an all-star lineup, including Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Jerry Butler (of the Impressions), Dennis Edwards (of the Tempations), Ronald Isley (of the Isley Brothers) and Spooner Oldham, in addition to 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominee Chaka Khan, Kris Bowers, Carla Cook, Mike Farris, Ms. Lauryn Hill and Cissy Houston, as artists take the stage to pay tribute to 2011 American Music Masters honoree Aretha Franklin. The concert marks the culmination of a weeklong series of American Music Masters events celebrating the life and legacy of Aretha Franklin.