A lighter Aretha Franklin looks

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.-Aretha Franklin feels lighter than air these days. The Queen of Soul will be honored Friday as Person of the Year for MusiCares, a Recording Academy charity supporting music education. She’s also up for her 18th Grammy on Sunday, nom

And she’s, well, actually lighter. Sitting in the lavish presidential suite of the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on Tuesday, surrounded by fresh white flowers and a tray of fruits, Franklin looks decidedly slimmer in a lavender sweater and dark pants, her long dark hair hanging in loose waves below her shoulders, her nails painted bright silver.

Franklin’s busy schedule of late has motivated her to push for change in her life, including weight loss and the first album to be released on her own label, Aretha’s Records. ”I’ve got a new trainer, and she’s giving me a lot of good things, really educating me about nutrition and weight loss and how to do it, and cooking stuff for you,” the 65- year-old singer said.

”I’m not on a diet. It’s a lifestyle change. I’m going to be doing it for the long run. And eventually I’ll reach my goal.” Though she didn’t say what that goal was, it was clear she was happy to cut out heavier foods, fat content and salt. ”I feel lighter. I’m not as heavy, what you get with the red meat,” she told The Associated Press.

”You dragging yourself along when you have all that red meat. Much lighter. I feel a lot lighter, and a lot better.” Franklin said she’s ”a very good cook” but noted she’s been mixing up her meals with those from weight-loss program Jenny Craig. Still, Franklin said that for one meal a week, she eats whatever she wants, diverging from low-fat, lowsodium meals of turkey, chicken, fish, lobster and crab.

Before leaving for Los Angeles from her hometown of Detroit, ”I had turkey wings and dressing, and that was wonderful. “My nutritionist would not like that; my trainer, not at all,” Franklin said, grinning. She usually travels by car, bus or train, and hasn’t been on an airplane since a bad flight in 1982. Franklin said she was truly surprised about the MusiCares honor. ”I was stunned, absolutely stunned, absolutely unbelievable.

But hey, woo! I love it,” she said. Franklin said she was thrilled with her Grammy nomination with Blige for the duet Never Gonna Break My Faith from the soundtrack of the film Bobby. ”It’s the highest level of achievement that you can achieve in the music industry. And it’s always wonderful. You don’t always have to win. To be nominated is wonderful,” she said.

Franklin’s upcoming album, A Woman Falling Out of Love, will focus on a long-standing theme in her music: relationships. ”We’ve all been there, women, men. Just a relationship that’s boding well to begin with, and hit a bad curve, and just downhill all the way from there,” Franklin said, her voice trailing off. Franklin said she decided to start her own record label after she couldn’t ”come to a meeting of the minds” with Arista Records’ Clive Davis.

”I wanted to stay and he wanted me to stay, but we just didn’t meet halfway in the middle there,” she said. ”So I decided not to re-sign and just go ahead and start my own label and be distributed by some fabulous company.” It’s been 40 years since her hit Respect snagged the ears of listeners, and a Grammy. Will she ever stop singing? ”Music is my thing, it’s who I am. I’m in it for the long run,” she said. ”I’ll be around, singing, ‘What you want, baby I got it.’ Having fun all the way.” (AP)

______ Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.  

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