Aretha Franklin has a lot more than her 70th birthday to celebrate: She’s reuniting with one of her musical mentors, Clive Davis, for a new album. In an interview at her swanky birthday party on Saturday, Franklin said she and Davis, who helped engineer her comeback in the 1980s, would be working on new music. “I have re-signed with Clive Davis, so I’m recording with Clive again,” said Franklin of the music mogul, who is associated with Sony Music Entertainment. Franklin said that after Davis’ birthday next month, “we’re going to sit together and decide what it is we’re going to record.”
Davis sat next to Franklin for most of the night at the soiree at the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel, which included a sit-down dinner, a dance performance and a mini-concert that featured rising jazz pianist Kris Bowers. Other guests included Diane Sawyer, Rev. Al Sharpton, and Willie Wilkerson, Franklin’s longtime companion and briefly this year her fiancé. Wilkerson stood by Franklin’s side as she cut her three-tier, lime-green birthday cake while the crowd serenaded her with Stevie Wonder’s version of “Happy Birthday.”
When asked whether marriage might once again be in her future, the Queen of Soul simply said: “We’ll see what happens.”
As far as future work-related plans, she was looking forward to performances in California and said she was helping negotiate a record contract for her grandson. Her planned biopic is on hold. “It’s in a limbo position,” she said. “It’s just a lot going on.”
Franklin said she planned to spend her actual birthday – Sunday – relaxing with a paper, her feet up and watching TV. But Saturday night, she hung out with friends long after the party’s designated end time. At one point, she joked that she was turning back the hands of time. “I was wondering, `What is it going to be like to be 50?’ I can tell you now it feels like 40,” she said as the crowd laughed.