When a young Aretha Franklin accompanied the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to churches in the early days of the civil rights movement, he usually made a special request for her to sing one song in particular: “Take My Hand, Precious Lord.”
On Aug. 28, when a memorial in his honor is dedicated on the National Mall in Washington, Franklin will again sing the song for her mentor and friend.
“I’m really looking forward to this moment. It's going to be another great, great moment in American history, and in African-American history,” Franklin said in a phone interview Aug. 9.
“It means as well, after so many years of traveling with him in the early '60s at the advent of the civil rights movement, that again, many years later, I would perform in his honor and in tribute to him, and I'm really looking forward to that moment and singing one of his favorite songs, his most requested song by me,” she said.
Franklin, 69, was one of the early supporters of the campaign to honor the civil rights hero with a statue in the nation's capital. She even headlined an all-star concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City in 2007 to raise funds for the memorial, which has been years in the making.
“I just think that it is a nod to how far we have come, and what a tremendous spot for him to be him, between the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial on the mall. We've come a long way,” she said. “I think it's tremendous.”
President Barack Obama, Stevie Wonder, Maya Angelou and many more are expected to participate in the dedication ceremony.
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