After an unforgettable 1987,
Aretha backed out of the spotlight in 1988. This was the year that her dear Sister Carolyn, her Brother Cecil and her manager
all died. After this rapid succession of personal tragedies, Aretha recorded the aptly titled 'Through The Storm' (1989),
and a lackluster project titled 'What You See Is What You Sweat' (1991), which included a remake ('Everyday People'), and
a duet with superstar Luther Vandross ('Doctor's Orders'). What then followed was a long line of accolades, a performance
at President Bill Clinton's 1993 inauguration and countless peripheral projects such as a biography and television special.
Arista also cashed in by releasing 'Greatest Hits (1980-1994)', and Aretha also contributed to the classic Babyface-penned
soundtrack to 'Waiting To Exhale' in 1995.LA Reid & Babyface also produced the new tracks on her 1994 Arista compilation
('Honey' & 'Willing To Forgive'). Following another hiatus in which Aretha received the 'Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award'
in 1995, Franklin released the critically acclaimed, 'A Rose Is Still a Rose' in 1998. The Arista project featured the hit
title track (written by Lauryn Hill) as well as songs produced by a variety of producers. Other memorable songs from the 1998
release include 'Here We Go Again', 'I'll Dip', and 'In Case You Forgot', but Aretha really shines on the song that she wrote,
'The Woman'. In addition to a new CD in 1998, Aretha also had a brief role in 'Blues Brothers 2000', and she also remade 'Respect',
which is on the soundtrack CD.
1998 signaled the long-awaited return
of 'The Queen Of Soul', and VH-1's 'Diva's Live' featured Aretha along with other successful singers. This highly rated telecast
showcased Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Gloria Estefan, and Shania Twain, but they were all put to shame when the Queen 'stole
the show' with her natural vocal abilities. Celine & Mariah were simply 'schooled' on soulful singing, but the apex of
the show occured when the great Carol King joined Aretha & Company for an interesting group-rendition of '(You Make Me
Feel)Like A Natural Woman', which King wrote for Aretha in 1967. In retrospect, it was a grand evening for Aretha, and the
public was informed that the Queen is alive & VERY well!! In March 1999, Aretha did something at the Grammy Awards that
made her legend even larger!! The classical legend Luciano Pavarotti was ailing during the night of the telecast, so he couldn't
perform his 'Nessun Dorma' piece. Well, the audience was stunned to see Pavarotti's friend Aretha on stage to perform the
opera standard, and she tore it up! Everyone talked about Aretha, and Eddie Murphy was so touched by her performance, that
he sent a bouquet of roses. The year ended with Aretha singing a nice duet with Mary J.Blige ('Don't Waste Your Time'), and
the Queen showed Mary that the crown isn't going to be handed over.
After her performance at the 1999 Grammy
Awards, Aretha had a pretty quiet 2000 with no new studio releases, but on April 10, 2001, she returned to the public eye
(again!) on VH-1's 'Diva's Live', which FINALLY honored Aretha's career in music. The guests included Janet Jackson, the Backstreet
Boys, Jill Scott, and the Queen Of Hip-Hop Soul, Mary J.Blige. As with the previous 2 'Diva's Live' shows, this one lacked
the quality of the 1998 edition, which also featured Franklin, but her greatness was reaffirmed when she sang 'Do Right Woman,
Do Right Man' with Blige, who just couldn't keep up with the Queen. Following the 2001 edition of Divas, Aretha's desire for
some quiet time while recording a new CD was sadly not to be. Within a short period of time in 2002, Aretha's Sister Erma
passed away, and one of her homes burned in Detroit. And if losing another sibling & a house wasn't enough, Aretha was
questioned about the fire during the investigation, which focused on arson. There were 'rumors' of Aretha having financial
troubles, and this made the fire look suspicious. Despite the rumors, Aretha wasn't a candidate for welfare, and when the
dust settled, she resumed work on her new CD for Arista, her first in 5 years.
This long awaited project,
titled 'So Damn Happy' was finally released during August 2003, and it was Aretha's 1st CD without Clive Davis at the helm.
L.A.Reid was now the chief at Arista, while Davis resided at his new J Records (home to Luther Vandross, Alicia Keys, etc..).
Things were different with 'So Damn Happy', a collection of songs that had a welcomed 70's vibe, and the 2 singles released
were 'The Only Thing Missing' & 'Wonderful'. As the months rolled on, 'So Damn Happy' (& it's 2 singles) failed to
make serious noise on the charts, and the L.A.Reid led Arista can be blamed for not promoting Aretha's CD properly (videos,
etc). 'So Damn Happy' was praised by critics & loyal fans, and it's quality was validated in 2004, as Aretha won her 18th
Grammy Award for the song 'Wonderful' (in the Best Tradditional R&B Category). In the aftermath of Aretha's Grammy Award,
L.A.Reid was soon fired from Arista, and Clive Davis returned to head a restructured BMG corporation. The future does look
bright for The Diva & her many fans!