GSU salutes The Queen of Soul


Lane Cameron

Damien Sneed (left) and Karen Clark Sheard perform during the Tribune to Aretha Franklin.

Nuha Abdessalam, Phoenix Staff Writer

As Black History Month ended and Women’s History Month began, GSU celebrated both cultural landmarks by presenting “A Tribute to Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul.”  

In a tribute celebrating Franklin’s musical legacy, GSU opened doors to students, faculty, staff, and community members on March 13, 2022, as the Center for Performing Arts welcomed Damien Sneed, the multi-genre composer, performer, and vocalist. Joining Sneed were the accomplished gospel group the Clark Sisters and four-time GRAMMY Award-winner Karen Clark Sheard. 

Audience members frequently jumped to their feet, dancing and clapping to celebrate the power and achievements of Franklin’s music.   

The event provided performances of The Queen of Soul’s classic hits, including “Respect,” “Knew You Were Waiting,” “Precious Memories,” and “Natural Woman.” In addition to the hits, Sneed’s brief stories about Aretha that filled the gaps between musical segments gave the audience a more personal insight into The Queen Of Soul.  

Guests were asked to continue wearing masks in the auditorium, and they needed proof of vaccination cards or COVID test results at the box office.   

Cultural Marketing Director of GSU, Jane Cox, said, “We were hoping for this turnout, with Covid we were only doing capacity limits, and having clearance for maximum capacity made this event the largest turnout in exactly two years.  

“We are getting back in the groove at 100% capacity to come to see our shows. It’s an exciting time.”  

With the capacity of 1,165, the CPA didn’t entirely sell out but sold over 1,000 tickets.  

Both the music and the stories between numbers highlighted Ms. Franklin’s legendary career. She was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; the first woman with 112 charted singles on Billboard; she earned 18 Grammy Awards; and she sold over 75 million records.