The "No Tears Left to Cry" crooner got emotional during her performance of the iconic singer's hit, "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," on Thursday's episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Grande, whose album, Sweetener,drops on Friday, opened the late-night talk show with a touching rendition of Franklin's song that brought the house down following her powerful performance with The Roots.
Wearing a shimmering blazer, matching shorts, thigh-high black boots, and her signature high sleek pony, the 25-year-old artist commanded the stage with her beautiful singing.
Sitting down with Fallon as the night’s first guest, Grande opened up about her experiences with the beloved singer, who died on Thursday.
“I met her a few times. We sang at the White House and she was so sweet and she was so cute, and I was like, ‘How are you a real person?’” Grande said. “It’s an honor to have met her.”
She also reflected on an endearing memory of the time she randomly got a phone call out of the blue from the Queen of Soul.
“She called me one time, one time only, and she goes ‘Hi, it’s Aretha,’ and I’m like, ‘Franklin?!” Grande said, recalling that the iconic diva was hoping that she’d take a listen to some music recorded by either her “nephew or her grandson.”
“I don’t remember because it was Aretha Franklin on the phone and I didn’t know what was happening,” Grande quickly explained.
“I was like, “Oh my god, I’d be honored to listen. Thank you for thinking of me. Just text me the MP3 or something.’ And she was like, ‘Well, I don’t know how to do that so I’m just gonna send it to you.’ And then, like, four months later I got a package with a CD,” Grande said, laughing. “But it was nice. It was great.”
Franklin died at the age of 76 from advanced pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type. Her longtime publicist, Gwendolyn Quinn, confirmed the heartbreaking news of her passing early Thursday morning.
“In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family. The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds," reads the family's statement. "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. 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.”
Following the tragic news, Grande took to her Instagram account to post a black-and-white photo of her and Franklin, which she captioned with many hearts.