Setting aside the jokes, the monologues, and the sketches, Jimmy Fallon deferred the Tonight Show stage on Thursday night to Ariana Grande. The pop star behind album Sweetener, accompanied by the The Roots, offered a rendition of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” as a tribute to Aretha Franklin, who died Thursday at the age of 76.
The audience basked in the sweet falsetto of Grande’s voice as the the Queen of Soul’s 1968 song from her Lady Soul album began. As the tune revved up from verse to verse, so did Grande, incorporating more of her chest voice until it became a roaring belt of the final lyric, “You make me feel like a natural woman.”
The song was written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin and became one of Franklin’s most recognizable works.
Sitting down with Fallon after the performance, the “No Tears Left to Cry” singer called up memories of meeting Franklin while performing at the White House. Grande also remembered a “one time” phone call she received from the music legend about a family member wanting to get into music and send Grande some samples.
“I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’d be honored to listen. Thank you for thinking of me. Text me the MP3 or something,’” Grande recalled. “And she was like, ‘Well, I don’t know how to do that, so I’m gonna send it to you.’ And four months later I got a package with a CD.’”
Patti LaBelle, John Legend, Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney, Elton John, and more celebrities in the industry have been celebrating Franklin’s life and legacy since she passed away at her Detroit home from advanced pancreatic cancer.
“We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world,” a family statement read. “Thank you for your compassion and prayers. We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on. As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.”