How has not flying hindered your career?
Kevin Mull, LITITZ, PA.
It has not hindered my career at all. Miss Franklin can get around. I have been everywhere, believe me, on this bus--everywhere except across the ocean. And if it were an amphibious bus, I might do that. When I was flying, I never saw the U.S. and what it really looked like. I saw the back of the concert hall, the hotel and the airport. Now I really see America. The last time I flew was in '82. I had such a bad flight. A two-engine plane. The flight was dipsy-doodling up and down all the way home. I said, "Oh, my God, when I get to Detroit, that's it. That is it." And I have not flown since. But I intend to. It's been a long time.
What has kept you in the Detroit area for so long?
Alexis Alexander, TROY, MICH.
I was brought up in Detroit, and most of my family's here. I like the mentality. It's a very supportive city. Detroiters will come all out if they really feel like what you are standing behind has merit.
Why have you decided not to be on a major label?
Marc Daniels, OTTAWA
Well, let's see: '62, '72, '82, '92, 2002--that's 42 years of recording for other people. I thought, At this point, it's time for you to record for yourself. That way there wouldn't be so many spoons in the soup. There would just be one Aretha spoon. I'll take responsibility for all of it--choosing the producer, the musicians, the singers, where I will record, what time and so on.
What is the best way to bring back residents to Detroit?
TRAVERSE CITY, MICH.
Create more jobs and bring developers back who will invest in the city. But particularly the jobs. A lot of people have left Detroit to seek employment. They just can't find it here. These are people who love Detroit, and it has to be pretty bad for them to leave.
How do you feel about artists covering your songs?
GROSSE POINTE WOODS, MICH.
Oh, fine. That really is the most sincere form of flattery. It really is--in most instances.
You once performed "Nessun Dorma" when you filled in for Pavarotti at the Grammys. Do you plan on doing more opera?
Steve Lee, NASHVILLE
I do. I have an aria album that's coming up on Aretha's Records. I'm working on one right now. And I'm also going to sing a little Mozart. I love Puccini, but I'm going to do a little Mozart on this dual offering that Condoleezza Rice and I will be doing over the summer for our favorite charities. It's a bipartisan effort.
I have heard some of your father C.L. Franklin's powerful sermons. How was it growing up in such a spiritual setting?