Aretha Franklin, who is being laid to rest today, has been a part of pop culture for decades, including the late ’80s and early ’90s classic sitcom A Different World. Franklin sang the show’s season 2-season 6 theme song, co-written by A Different World actor Dawnn Lewis. Lewis and Debbie Allen, the show’s executive producer, spoke to Vibe about the impact Franklin had on the show and themselves.
“I was incredibly honored, I was beyond honored,” Lewis told Vibe when describing what it was like to have Franklin sing her work. She also described what it was like to meet Franklin. “You get speechless because Aretha Franklin knows your name…I’m supposed to come up to you (Aretha) and tell you what an amazing influence you’ve been on me, and the first thing out of your mouth is you know my name, and please keep up the good work and I love your show. She was that kind of person. She was not reserved or withholding of compliment. It was genuine.”
“But for her to express that she was appreciative of the show and a fan of the show, and then afterward, how much fun she had in the studio recording it…She had no idea that it was going to become as popular as it did and people walking up to her and singing the song to her,” she said.
Allen said to Vibe that Franklin “was always fond of” her and her sister, Phylicia Rashad. “She was celebrating the kind of things we were doing, the image that we were projecting for our community. She had a great sense of humor; she was something,” she said. “…I’m just happy that I was lucky to know her and actually get to work with her and to be friends.”
On pesky reboot talks, Lewis said, “We as the cast have gone on in so many different directions in our careers. We’re still friends, so we wouldn’t mind doing a project together, and if it wasn’t a specific reboot of that show, it could be a creation of some new series that just happens to incorporate us.” Allen added, “I had been trying for probably a decade to do it, honestly, I really have. The whole cast wanted it to happen and Marcy Carsey, I’ve spoken with her several times—especially after they did Roseanne. I’m like, ‘Come on, come on!’ There seems to be some kind of challenge with the complication of the writing credit or something, but yes, we’ve been wanting to do it for a long time, and it would be a great time to do it right now.”
Franklin died August 16 at the age of 76 from pancreatic cancer. She will be buried at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit, Michigan.