Remembering All The Times Aretha Franklin Loved On Chicago!

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 17: Aretha Franklin and Oprah attend Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular at the United Center on May 17, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images)

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 17: Aretha Franklin and Oprah attend Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular at the United Center on May 17, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images)

While we take a moment to remember THE Queen of Soul, it should be noted that she loved our great city as much as we loved her. 

Aretha Franklin's former publicist, Clarence Waldon, sat down with ABC days before her death to recall her love of Chicago, especially the shopping. 

Watch the interview as well as reminisce on various shows in the area and moments that connect her to Chicago below!

1980 - The Blues Brothers

We cannot forget her career-turning performance in the 1980 comedy, The Blues Brothers

The Blues Brothers, which starred Dan Aykroyd as Elwood Blues and John Belushi as "Joliet" Jake, featured music numbers by Ray Charles, James Brown and Aretha Franklin. 

The gig came about after Atlantic Records allowed her contract to expire due to the music scene turning away from soul as the popularity of disco began to takeover. Franklin was struggling to make the transition. 

But the way the universe, God or whatever higher power you believe in is set up, her appearance on the show as a waitress named Mrs. Murphy reinvigorated her career especially after an impeccable throwback performance of "Think," which debuted on her 1968 album Aretha Now.

Sep 03, 2017 @ Ravinia Festival

Aretha Franklin performed at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, IL on Sep 03, 2017. Aretha many concerts at at Ravinia, 8 to be exact, from 2003 to just last Summer, 2017.

Ravinia Festival Remembers Aretha Franklin - Thumbnail Image

Ravinia Festival Remembers Aretha Franklin

Mar 31, 2017 @ Chicago Theatre

Aretha Franklin performed all her hits at the Chicago Theatre on March 31, 2017. Rev. Jesse Jackson was said to be in the audience and even had him walk down to the stage. 

The Chicago Tribune reported, "Even if she no longer possesses the highest end of her youthful range, she showed that her artistry was always about more than the number of octaves." You can read the full review here.

Check out her set list from the evening as well as photos from the show below!

  • I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)
  • Skylark
  • Until You Come Back to Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)
  • Don't Play That Song (You Lied)
  • (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
  • Chain of Fools
  • Band Instrumental
  • Old Landmark
  • Something He Can Feel
  • Rolling in the Deep / Ain't No Mountain High Enough
  • Sweet Sixteen
  • My Cup Runneth Over
  • A Brand New Me
  • Freeway of Love
  • Respect

June 30, 2012 - Soul Music 50th Anniversary N'DIGO Gala @ Chicago Theatre

Aretha Franklin headlined the N'DIGO Gala salute to Soul Music's 50th Anniversary black tie event held at the Chicago Theatre benefiting Chicago teen scholars. Watch Aretha play the piano and pay tribute to Whitney singing her rendition of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You,"

The event raised enough money to fund 276 scholarships. Click here to read more.

May 19, 2011 Declared "Aretha Franklin Day" In Chicago

It was a Thursday night at the Chicago Theatre where Franklin kicked off her tour with a 21-piece Orchestra.

“Please turn the air off so I don’t have to leave the stage.” - Aretha Franklin

As Rolling Stone reported, "It was a welcome, though sweaty, reminder that the ultimate diva – who shuns air conditioning because it dries out her vocal cords –  is back, months after being sidelined by a mysterious injury that forced her to cancel a string of tour dates last fall." Click here to read more.

During the event, her "dearest friends" from Chicago Rev. Jesse Jackson and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis as well as Judge Greg Mathis saluted Franklin on behalf of Mayor Rahm Emanuel as they informed her that the City Council had passed a resolution declaring May 19th "Aretha Franklin Day."

May 17, 2011 - Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular @ United Center

Aretha Franklin attended the Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular which was also coined THE Ultimate Tribute. 

Franklin accompanied other living legends in once-in-a-lifetime performances and Ultimate Viewers for the tribute that took place at the United Center on May 17, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. 

Oct 17, 1997 @ Lantz Arena at Eastern Illinois University

The Eastern Illinois University booked Aretha Franklin for a performance in the Lantz Arena on October 17, 1997. Even though the tickets were priced at only $20 a pop, the concert didn't do well for the university. In fact, the school lost an estimated $38,000 and had to take out a loan to cover the loss. Click here to read more via The Daily Eastern News.

August 23, 1996 @ Petrillo Bandshell in Grant Park

While before my time, it's reported that Aretha performed alongside Ramsey Lewis at the Petrillo Bandshell in Grant Park on August 23, 1996. 

Lewis is a legendary pianist and funk fusion pioneer who also hosted Ramsey Lewis Morning Show which played smooth jazz on our sister station WNUA (95.5 FM) which has since flipped to our new country sister station BIG 95.5.

Lewis announced his retirement back in April, stating his final live hometown performance would, ironically, be hosted at the very same venue on September 1, 2018 at The 40th annual Chicago Jazz Festival. 

There is no word if the passing of Franklin will affect this performance, but he did take to his Facebook Fan Page to share his sentiments. As of now he is set to hit the stage at 7:45-9pm. Click here for more on the event.

August 25, 1996 @ Democratic National Convention

Check out Aretha Franklin doing a sound check at the United Center in Chicago where she entertained the Democratic National Convention in the photo below!



The further I go back in time to remember the times Aretha spent in and around Chicago, it's troublesome due to the limited access of photos and videos from shows before the internet and social media. 

That said, if you have any you'd like to share with us, please reach out to me on social @ACThePlug or via email at 

Other notable shows in the area included:

Mar 09, 1996 at The Hollywood Casino Ballroom in Aurora, IL

Oct 14, 1995 at the Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville, IN.

Oct 12, 1995 at the Braden Auditorium at Illinois State University in Normal, IL.

Feb 25, 1995 at Arie Crown Theater in Chicago, IL.

Feb 25, 1995 - Arie Crown TheaterChicago, IL

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