Sorry, Cynthia Erivo, ain't no way you're a substitute for the real thing. Here are seven unforgettable performances by Aretha Franklin on YouTube. (See this story on startribune.com/music for links to clips.)
"Respect" (1968, Rockpalast): A year after this Otis Redding-penned tune became her signature hit, the Queen of Soul performed it live on a German TV show. After the host presents her with a bouquet of roses near the end of the song, she reprises the chorus with the kind of let-your-hair-down joy seldom seen in her later performances.
"Dr. Feelgood," 1971, Fillmore West: With Billy Preston on organ, King Curtis on sax and Aretha on electric piano, she eventually gets lost in her performance (I like to call it Aretha-izing), celebrating a lover who makes her feel good, so good, reeeeeeal good.
"Amazing Grace," 1972, New Temple Missionary Baptist Church: At the height of her soul success, she returned to an L.A. church to revisit her gospel roots. This lengthy, melisma-filled, roof-raising testifying will make you shout "Amen." Amazing, indeed.
"Think," 1980, "Blue Brothers" movie: This blast from the John Belushi-Dan Aykroyd film finds Aretha, as a no-nonsense restaurateur, full of spit and vinegar as she tells off her lover-boy cook. And Lady Soul doing steps with Jake and Elwood in a greasy-spoon diner? Priceless.
"Nessun Dorma," 1998, Grammy Awards: When the great tenor Luciano Pavarotti took ill, Aretha stepped in on a few hours' notice for this live televised performance. On an aria. In Italian and English. With a full orchestra and large choir. Aretha does opera! Who knew?
"My Country, 'Tis of Thee," 2009, President Barack Obama's inauguration: Was it the significance of the moment? Her taking a patriotic song to the sanctified church? The truly massive crowd? Or that glorious gray hat with that big, bejeweled bow? Oh, it was all of the above.
"Natural Woman," 2016, Kennedy Center Honors salute to Carole King: Sitting at the piano, the Queen had King, President Obama and just about everyone in the black-tie audience mouthing the words with her. And then when Aretha got up from the piano, slipped out of her full-length fur and began to Aretha-ize vocally, the crowd jumped to their feet like they were having an ecstatic religious experience.