The “Queen of Soul” will return to her gospel roots to perform at the 30th Annual McDonald’s Gospelfest on May 11 in Newark, N.J.’s Prudential Center.

Aretha Franklin’s road to legendary stardom began at a young age at the pulpit of her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin’s New Bethel Baptist Church. Considered a child prodigy whose musical skills were largely self-taught, Franklin came by her talent naturally as her mother, Barbara Siggers Franklin, was also a gospel singer.

She further flowered under the influence of gospel luminaries such as Clara Ward, Mahalia Jackson and the Rev. James Cleveland, whom she met while singing in her father’s traveling revival show.

Marquee gospel artists Donnie McClurkin, Hezekiah Walker, and Cissy Houston will also grace the Gospelfest stage, while Bishop T.D. Jakes will preach.

McDonald’s Gospelfest originated in 1983 under the auspices of the McDonald’s Corp. and the McDonald’s Tri-State Owner/Operator Association. Produced and directed by Emmy Award winning producer A. Curtis Farrow, the annual gospel music festival and talent competition features more than a thousand performers each year and has become known as one of the nation’s preeminent celebrations of the genre in all its expressions, including dance and poetry.

The event also raises funds to support education opportunities within local communities via scholarships.

Tickets can be purchased at the Prudential Center Box Office or through Ticketmaster by calling 800.745.3000, or at For further information, call the McDonald’s Gospelfest Hotline at 973.643.6262. Competition will begin at 3 p.m.; the headliner performance will begin at 6 p.m. 


Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO