Praise You: An Aretha Franklin Tribute Mix by Javonntte

Rightfully hailed as the ‘Queen of Soul’, Aretha Franklin’s contributions to music over the last six decades are simply unparalleled.

Getting her start singing gospel at the church where her father was minister in Detroit, she went on to land a record deal at 18 with Colombia Records, but it wasn’t until after ’66 that critical acclaim arrived after signing with Atlantic Records, and revered songs like ‘Respect’, ‘Chain of Fools’ and ‘Think’ were shared with the world.

Albums including Young, Gifted and Black and Amazing Grace followed but a breakdown with the record label led to her leaving for Arista Records at the end of the 70s. More music followed, as did the accolades; throughout her career she earned a mammoth 18 Grammy awards, was awarded the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom and became the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – that’s not to mention her being one of the best-selling artists of all time.

But for those that knew her or worked for her, her influence stretched far beyond just music. As well as being an important voice during the American Civil Rights Movement, on home turf in Detroit she employed around 1500 people, providing jobs for many people within the community and treating those who worked for her like family. Fellow Detroit local, musician and producer Javonntte was one of the many employed by Aretha, at first as a dancer on her tour and then later collaborating with her as a producer on her track ‘New Day’ in 2011.

Alongside a mix of favourites from her catalogue, which closes out with the aforementioned track, to drill further into Javonntte’s personal connection and relationship with Aretha, producer, singer and The Jazz Diaries boss Jitwam spoke to him about first connecting with her music, her far-reaching impact and the important life lessons she taught him along the way.

Javonntte’s Virtual Dreams EP is out now on The Jazz Diaries.

We now premiere all our mixes a week early on Mixcloud. Subscribe to our channel to listen first, download all mixes, and ensure that the artists included in each one gets paid. Read more about our decision here.

Do you mind if I press record and just record some of your answers down to these questions? Is that cool?

Fo’ sure bro let’s get it!

Can you just explain a little bit why Aretha was so important to you?

Oh, man, see… uh. Mama, Mama, Franklin, man. See, actually, she got me. She groomed me into being good people and just dealing with the world, you know; dealing with pressure, dealing with different people.

She used to tell me ‘go out into the world and find yourself… don’t be afraid.’ She actually gave me the courage to go out into the world and just DIVE IN.

Is that more from a music side or more life in general?

Just in general – music, dance, you know, if you’re gonna do this or that – just go get involved. You know, she would always tell me: ‘you have to get involved.’ Call a friend up, ‘ay man, you wanna go play basketball? Let’s talk about some things.’ She would tell me to get physically involved with things, don’t sit down and think too much.

At the time you were dancing for Aretha’s band. Talk about the last track on the mix ‘New Day’ – how did it come about that you ended up producing for her as well?

Well she always knew I was into music. At the time I was working for her making a living but one day when I was cleaning up and she was like ‘you want to write a song for me?’

I was like… Yeah! She was like get with my son and his brother in law and y’all arrange it. It was such a blessing, I learnt a lot of things from her.

Aretha was a really entrepreneurial business-minded woman wasn’t she? Can you touch on that and what you learnt from her in that respect?

Oh, man. I learned about finances. She actually taught me about the art of making money. Having a service, you know. Letting your service be known, whether it’s a record label or people want to hire you – let people know that you have a service.

You can’t make any money if you don’t have something that you are servicing. If you play piano, you need to let people know, ‘do you need a song? Do you need a demo?’ So she taught me about service.

When did you first hear Aretha’s music?

Yeah, I think it was ’85. My sister collected all her albums, you know, because I was listening to Jeff Lorber and stuff. But I really never really started listening to Aretha seriously until, like, 2000… I heard her stuff when I was younger. But I guess 2005, when we started touring with her, I was like damn, this is DOPE! I guess it didn’t really catch me until I went on tour with her and I said damn, this is magical – that’s why she’s the queen of soul!

What era of Aretha was you loving the most?

You know what, that’s deep… (sings ‘Daydreamin’’ inaudibly) because it was really dreamy, it was real snappy and stylish. That was the era when she was singing that and Spanish Harlem. I also like the era when she did ‘Jump to it’ and the song she did with Michael McDonald was very nice.

What attracts you most to Aretha’s music?

Everything. You know what every time we were on the road I’d just be listenin’ to the band and her – it’s just pure magic. Everything, from the tambourine to her vocals to the backgrounds. It’s beautiful bro. I just used to sit there like a little baby and watch her.

What I find most inspiring about Aretha and her impact in Detroit is how many jobs she provided for the community. I mean, from what I read, she was like a one woman General Motors!

Undisputed bro… there will never be a person like Aretha. I mean, she helped me take care of my kids!!! Undisputed, undisputed. She had over like 1500 people working for her.


Yeah, we was on shifts and shit! 1500 people working for her bro, everyday. Different assignments… bro, no celebrity that I know has done that, not like that.

100%. And she was fair with everybody. Everybody got treated nice, everybody got cussed out and everybody got rewarded.

One Step
Call Me
Spanish Harlem
Chain of Fools
Rock Steady
Jump to it
Get it Right
A Deeper Love (Acapella)
New Day

Javonntte’s Virtual Dreams EP is out now on The Jazz Diaries.

We now premiere all our mixes a week early on Mixcloud. Subscribe to our channel to listen first, download all mixes, and ensure that the artists included in each one gets paid. Read more about our decision here.

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