EXCLUSIVE: Rickey Minor on prepping Aretha Franklin tribute for American Music Awards

"This is our 'thank you" to Aretha."

Rickey minor
Getty Images

The 2018 American Music Awards are finally upon us and plenty of people are looking forward to see some of the greatest voices in the game pay tribute to the late legend, Aretha Franklin. 

The tribute will feature Mary Mary, Gladys Knight, Ledisi, Cece Winans, and Donnie McClurkin and will be produced by Rickey Minor. 

We caught up with the composer, producer, and Emmy-winning music director to find out what we can expect from the long-awaited tribute to the Queen of Soul.

“There will never be another Aretha Franklin. All of us owe some gratitude to Aretha for opening the doors for everyone. It was a master class every time she performed. There were no wasted notes. She was born with it and she gave that to the world so we are going to do our best to try to give back just an ounce of what she gave to all of us,” he told TheGrio exclusively.

“She has transcended an artist in terms of touching people in the way that music is supposed to. The ultimate goal is that everyone in the world who has been touched by Aretha Franklin in some way is able to honor her spirit.”

Cardi B and Drake score 8 American Music Awards nominations + full list

Minor admits he had a hard time narrowing down which songs to include for the star-studded performance, but he’s confident hemmed the right selection.

“There are so many songs to choose from and this tribute is to specifically recognize her contribution with the ‘Amazing Grace’ gospel album. She was at the top of her career with No. 1 hits everywhere but she decided to do a gospel album because of her roots and that became one of the best-selling albums of her career,” he explained. “That project gave people a glimpse into her life because she was singing something she knew. She grew up in the church and she was able to convey these lyrics with so much heart and meaning. She sang from a different place than the mind or the body. This was a spiritual experience. Every performance she gave meant something to her. She never compromised who she was. She put her heart in it.”

Rickey Minor also revealed that he’s happy with the line-up of singers who will take the stage tonight.

“You cast a wide net for people you think would be great. We have some great people on that stage and there are a few that didn’t make it. If we had it my way, we would do the whole album but I don’t think they would let me do that. I had to scale back my original idea but we will end up doing quite a few snippets of songs,” he said.

“I’m so looking forward to seeing these artists take the stage. We had a rehearsal today and it was amazing. This is their ‘thank you’ to Aretha. Now, it’s anybody’s bet because they are all going to leave it all on the stage. At rehearsals, I was blown away. It kept getting better and better.”

Michigan lawmaker proposes renaming part of highway after Aretha Franklin

So, who should we pay special attention to on Tuesday night? 

“Gladys Knight never fail,” said Minor. “I’m gonna get out of the way and let the performers pay tribute in a very emotional way.”

The 2018 American Music Awards air live tonight on ABC at 8pm ET/ 5pm PT.