Aretha Franklin Only Wanted to Perform With 1 Other Singer in VH1’s ‘Divas Live’

As the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin commanded every performance she gave and showed the world her powerhouse vocals. In many ways, Franklin was one of the original divas — a label that often gets a bad rap, and something that Mariah Carey has pointed out, preferring the original definition referring to a female opera singer with a soaring voice.

Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin performs on stage at the Park West Auditorium, Chicago, Illinois, March 23, 1992 | Paul Natkin/Getty Images

VH1’s ‘Divas Live’ paid tribute to Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, and more

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, VH1 paid tribute to various divas with their Divas Live concert series. Various singers from all corners of the industry would come together to celebrate some of music’s best female vocalists.

The original 1998 Divas Live featured a tribute to Franklin (the 2001 edition was entirely dedicated to the Queen of Soul). During the show, Franklin performed a duet of her song “Chain of Fools” with fellow Grammy-winning singer Mariah Carey.

The show closed out with a larger-than-life rendition of Franklin’s classic “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman” featuring Carey, Franklin, Céline Dion, Gloria Estefan, Shania Twain, and Carole King, the song’s original writer.

(L-R) Gloria Estefan, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, Carole King, Shania Twain and Celine Dion at the Beacon Theatre in New York City, New York | Kevin Mazur/WireImage
(L-R) Gloria Estefan, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, Carole King, Shania Twain and Celine Dion at the Beacon Theatre in New York City, New York | Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Aretha Franklin’s relationship with Mariah Carey

Carey always had a positive relationship with the Queen of Soul. She reflected on their times together in her 2020 memoir The Meaning of Mariah Carey.

Carey first crossed paths with Franklin at the 1991 Grammy Awards. “I summoned the courage to go up to her,” she recounted. “I knelt down by her seat (because that’s just what one does in the presence). ‘Ms Franklin, I just wanted to say thank you. My name is Mariah,’ I said. Humbly, I went on, ‘I just wanted to say thank you, from all the singers that you’ve inspired. Thank you. It’s an honor to meet you.'”

“Years later, she said to me, ‘Mariah, you’ve always had good manners, and that’s the thing that most of these young girls are lacking. It’s the manners. They don’t have them,” Carey recalled. “I couldn’t imagine doing any less for someone who gave the world so much.”

Aretha Franklin (right) and Mariah Carey
Aretha Franklin (right) and Mariah Carey perform “Chain of Fools” at “Divas Live-An Honors Concert for VH1 Save the Music” at the Beacon Theater, New York, New York, April 14, 1998 | Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images

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Aretha Franklin only wanted to perform with Mariah Carey for ‘Divas Live’

Carey went on to describe Franklin’s relationship with Ken Ehrlich, the prolific TV producer behind dozens of award shows. According to Ehrlich, Franklin liked Carey so much that she declared she wouldn’t be duetting with anyone else.

“Ken told me that on several occasions Aretha said, ‘Mariah’s the only girl that I’ll be singing with this evening,'” she said, “which is why I was the only one to do a duet with her on the show.”