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Photographer remembers capturing Aretha Franklin concerts

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) - "And they ran this photograph across the entire front half of the newspaper," says Jason Miccolo Johnson as he points to a paper published in 1993.

His photo shows Aretha Franklin on stage adorned in a fur coat.

It was the first inauguration of Bill Clinton, but Johnson fondly remembers the concert the night before. 

Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and the 'Queen of Soul' performed.

Johnson, an award-winning photographer, says that was the second time he took pictures of Franklin and heard her perform.

The third was in 1996 at an event celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Smithsonian.

"I had nearly front row seats and it was an outside concert," he recalls. "And she had on this gorgeous white outfit and the spotlight was hitting her just perfectly. It was probably some of the most wonderful photos I ever took of her because of the close proximity."

For Johnson, who is now a professor at Savannah State University, it was about the camera and the perfect picture.

But maybe even more, it was about the music. He was a huge fan. 

"I was never able to speak to the Queen, but I was just happy to see her live performing on those three occasions," he told News 3. "But I would think that the world has lost one of the great singers of our time in any genre." 

He says from soul to gospel, there was no one like Aretha.

"She ran the full gamut in terms of range," he said. "She represented everybody's aspirations from the Civil Rights movement of the 50s to the women's empowerment movement during the 70s and 80s."

Johnson says the music world will not be the same.

"Her appeal is undeniable, her talent is irresistible and I think what she delivers in her songs is not just singing the words," he says. "It's the in-between notes that are not written on the paper that she puts in, it's the inflection in her voice -- it's purely Aretha and can't be duplicated."

The singer passed away in her Detroit home on Thursday. She was 76-years-old and suffered from advanced pancreatic cancer.

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