ALMOST 40 years separate the birth-dates of Australian soul diva Christine Anu and legendary US soul queen Aretha Franklin.
But for Anu, the difference in age is of little consequence when it comes to assessing and showcasing Franklin’s impact on the world of contemporary music.
For 42-year-old Anu, the 70-year-old Grammy Award-winning Franklin has long been a musical hero.
“Nobody says it or sings it better than Ms Aretha Franklin,” Anu says.
“She is one of my greatest influences and an inspiration to black pride and feminine empowerment. “I truly believe she is the greatest soul singer of our time.”
On July 20 at the Albury Entertainment Centre, Anu will pay tribute to the singer Rolling Stone magazine rated at the top of its 100 Greatest Singers list, in the brand new live show Rewind— The Aretha Franklin Songbook, which is touring Australia to coincide with Franklin’s 70th birthday (on March 25 last). Anu has also released an album of the same title and will be joined on stage by back-up singers Women of Soul featuring Miss Min and Evie J Willie.
In this glittering stage production, Anu conjures soulful interpretations of Franklin’s most memorable releases including her signature song Respect, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman as well as Chain of Fools, Rock Steady, Today I Sing The Blues and many other classic melodies.
Anu says it took three years to create and develop the show and to summon up the courage to perform it.
“We tossed around a whole bunch of ideas and my manager said, ‘You’ve got an Aretha Franklin songbook here’, and that’s when I went, ‘Hang on, before I take on an Aretha Franklin songbook let me just see for a second’,” she says.
“We’ve just been trying to get the sponsorship to get the record together to begin with and that’s taken a while, besides the fact that I’ve had a lot of acting gigs in the last three years as well.”
Christine Anu has been delighting Australian audiences for two decades with an award-winning repertoire spanning music, theatre, dance, film, television and children’s entertain- ment, working with movie, music and dancing luminaries such as Baz Luhrmann, Paul Kelly and David Atkins.
Nominated for 16 ARIA Awards, and the winner of four, Anu’s ARIA nominations include song of the year in 1995 for My Island Home and best female artist — album in 1996 for Stylin’ Up.
She is also an eight-times Deadly Award recipient.
A talented actress — she played the role of woman of the night Arabia in Baz Luhrman’s 2001 Academy Award- winning movie Moulin Rouge! — Anu won the best actress Green Room Award for her role in the rock musical Rent and the Judith Johnson Award for best performance by an actress in a musical at the 2010 Sydney Theatre Awards.
Born in Cairns to a Torres Strait Islander mother from the Saibai and Mabuiag Islands, Anu performed as a dancer before joining The Rainmakers with Neil Murray, founder of the Warumpi Band.
Following her recording debut on the Paul Kelly single Last Train, Anu’s debut album Stylin’ Up produced numerous hit singles including Monkey and the Turtle, Party, Wanem Time and the beautiful My Island Home, the song that was to become her signature tune.
That ARIA Award-winning album cemented her place as a major player in the Australian music industry.
Anu lives in the beautiful coastal community of Coledale, just north of Wollongong, with her husband Simon Deutrom and her son Kuiam, 16, and nine-year-old daughter Zippy, named after Anu’s mother, Zipporah Whap.
Anu and Aretha Franklin both share relatively humble beginnings.
Born in a two-room house in Memphis, Franklin was raised primarily by her grandmother, sang in church at an early age and learned how to play the piano by ear.
In 1960 the self-taught musician and singer released her first single, Rock-A-Bye Your Baby, which hit No. 37 on the charts.
I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) became a massive hit a year later but it was her string of classic hit singles in 1967 and 1968 that would become enduring classics including Respect, a remake of an Otis Redding song, which topped the R’n’B and pop charts and won Franklin her first two Grammy awards.
The crowning moment of Franklin’s career came in January 2009 when she sang My Country ’Tis Of Thee before millions of people at President Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony in Washington DC.
●See Christine Anu in Rewind — The Aretha Franklin Songbook on Friday, July 20 at the Albury Entertainment Centre. Go to alburycity.nsw.gov or phone (02) 6043 5610.