The Queen of Soul entered and took the house to its feet, receiving a standing ovation and providing one of the most storied performances in Grammy history.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on November 29, 2022. It has since been updated.
Italian soprano Luciano Pavarotti was slated to perform at the Grammy Awards at Radio City Music Hall on February 25, 1998. The piece from Puccini's opera Turandot, "Nessun Dorma," was listed on the program. After Pavarotti sang it during the 1990 FIFA World Cup, the song became a staple of his live performances and would later come to represent success by being played at other World Cup finals and the 2006 Winter Olympics, reported My Modern Met.
Sadly, Pavarotti got a really bad sore throat and had to cancel at the last minute. The producers of the concert were scrambling to find a substitute. The group required a replacement who was equally famous as him because he was the headliner. Ken Ehrlich, the producer, suddenly had an idea. He knew Aretha Franklin would be a great fit because he had just seen her ace the same area at a performance at a MusiCares event just two days prior in honor of her dear friend Pavarotti. The Queen of Soul entered and wowed the house with her range. She received a standing ovation and provided one of the most storied performances in Grammy history.
The Grammy Legend Award, given to Franklin seven years earlier, was intended for Pavarotti. Rock singer Sting was in charge of introducing Franklin and announcing the award recipient, which added to the epic nature of the evening. “On behalf of the Recording Academy it gives me great pleasure to present you with this year’s Grammy Living Legend Award in absentia”, said Sting. “I know you’ve promised to be here next year to accept the award. Living is the perfect word for you Luciano, for not only do you possess one of the greatest voices ever, but your spirit and zest for life is singular”.
Franklin triumphed after mastering the very intimidating song with her voice and personality, much as the lyrics of "Nessun Dorma" speak of victory and hope. She saved the day by singing Pavarotti's opera aria, something that is absolutely out of her comfort zone. Despite the high notes that have made this song famous for its difficulties in the opera world, she absolutely crushed it.
Aretha Franklin, regarded as the Queen of Soul, was renowned for having a strong, emotive voice that put her among the greatest singers of all time. Even though she is best known for songs like "Respect," "I Say a Little Prayer," and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman."