On March 25, 2019, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) had “church” when the voice of Aretha Franklin (The Queen of Soul) filled the Detroit Film Theater, located inside the DIA. A standing-room-only crowd relived a slice of her royalty’s life in a long-awaited documentary that was filmed back in January of 1972 at The New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, California. The 87 minute film, titled AMAZING GRACE, was a once-in- a-lifetime live recording session that took place over two evenings at New Temple Missionary, complete with the Southern California Community Choir and an enraptured congregation taking it all in.
By January of ’72, Franklin had already solidified her powerhouse status with numerous #1 singles and multiple Grammys to her credit. Such was evident when The Queen first graced the screen in an angelic white gown that levitated her gorgeous Afro-centric frame. Her presence seemed to float into the church sanctuary on angel’s wings. The demeanor of Franklin’s spirit was already comfortable wearing a regal robe of royalty. The instant the first note emerged from Franklin’s legendary lungs, everyone in that church, back in 1972 and in the DIA on March 25th, could clearly hear the responsibility charged to the God-Given-Gift of her voice. Aretha Franklin instantly relayed the suffering, the struggle and the joyous reward of traveling down life’s often unsteady cobblestoned roads towards a country’s elusive walk to freedom and racial equality.
The AMAZING GRACE documentary was completed and released after her unfortunate passing in August of 2018. The 1972 album of the same name went on to become the best-selling live gospel album of all time. Franklin was only 29 years old at the time of the recording. It was directed by a young Sydney Pollack and was hosted by her longtime mentor and childhood friend, the Rev. James Cleveland. Aretha Franklin’s talent spoke to people across racial and geographic boundaries as evidenced by the diverse makeup of the attending fans who came to pay witness to her majesty and to also participate in the testimonial revival; including the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Ron Wood.
Aretha Franklin’s niece, Sabrina Owens, was responsible for pulling all of the components together needed to premiere the release of this amazing tribute. We are all extremely fortunate to forever have this moment of history captured on film and now available for the world to see.
Yours truly was honored to join I See You Awards® founder Terri Lee on the red carpet with other special invited guests during the film’s premiere in Detroit. It was an amazing opportunity to see the amazing Aretha Franklin.
AMAZING GRACE was initially directed by Sydney Pollack who gave Allan Elliott his blessings to complete the film before his death in 2008. The film was produced by Joe Boyd, Alan Elliott, Role Johnson Chiemi Karasawa, Nagie Seegers, Tirrell D. Whittley, Joseph Woolf and Sabrina Owens.