Patti LaBelle and Mariah Carey are two of music’s biggest voices, each earning their spot in the pantheon of great R&B singers. Carey in many ways led the generation after LaBelle’s, but she’s always made sure to honor those who came before her.

Mariah Carey paid tribute to Aretha Franklin on VH1’s ‘Divas Live’

In 1998, Carey was chosen to perform on VH1’s Divas Live in a tribute to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. She sang a duet with Franklin to the legendary singer’s hit “Chain of Fools.” At the end of the show, the performers all came out on stage to honor Franklin with one of her calling cards.

Carey, Franklin, Céline Dion, Gloria Estefan, Shania Twain, and Carole King all joined each other on stage for a larger-than-life rendition of Franklin’s classic song “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman,” written by King but made famous by Franklin.

1 diva tried to ‘upstage’ Aretha Franklin

What was meant to be a tribute to Franklin ended up becoming a vocal acrobatics competition between Franklin and Dion. Carey reminisced on the cringeworthy incident in her 2020 memoir The Meaning of Mariah Carey.

“Look, if Aretha was going to riff or ad-lib anywhere, that was her prerogative as Queen, but you do not — repeat, do not — take it as a challenge,” Carey said. “One of the divas didn’t understand the culture of the court and tried to come for the Queen a little bit during the song.”

“[Franklin] was the bandleader; you followed her,” Carey added. “The dueling diva had gone too far before (in my humble opinion) and appeared to try and outsing Aretha.” Franklin brought in gospel vocals and Carey started ad-libbing “Jesus!” while Dion continued to try to out-riff the Queen of Soul.

“I couldn’t believe anyone would try to upstage Aretha Franklin on her tribute, while singing about Jesus, no less,” Carey said.

Patti LaBelle’s lesson to Mariah Carey about the performance

Franklin was unfazed, however, and the divas got through the “Natural Woman” performance. Carey later talked about the incident with LaBelle and knew she made the right decision to not get involved with the sing-off.

“Later I told the story to Patti LaBelle — Godmother, as I call her,” she recounted. “She has given me good, seasoned advice and has literally held my hand through some tough situations. So when I called her and told her about the scene, she said, ‘Mariah, if you would’ve participated in that hoedown, I would’ve had to come slap you in the face.”

Carey concluded: “Hopefully the one lesson we all earned on that stage was R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”

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