(NEW YORK) — Aretha Franklin wowed the crowds at President Obama’s first inauguration four years ago, belting out “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” on a bitterly cold Washington, D.C., day.
Four years later it was Beyonce whose performance drew initial raves at Obama’s second inauguration, but with the news that she may have lip-synched her rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” the Queen of Soul weighed in on the controversy, noting that she still thinks Beyonce “did a beautiful job.”
“But, when I heard the news this evening that she was pre-recorded I really laughed. I thought it was funny because the weather down there was about 46 or 44 degrees and for most singers that is just not good singing weather,” Franklin told ABC News in an interview. In fact, the weather was even colder than that Monday, around 40 degrees.
“When I heard that I just really cracked up. I thought it was really funny, but she did a beautiful job with the pre-record … next time I’ll probably do the same.”
Of course, in her inauguration performance in 2009, she sang it live because, she says, “I wanted to give people the real thing and pre-recording never crossed my mind.”
She did lament that she wished she hadn’t had to wait so long in the cold four years ago, saying that if she hadn’t, her performance — which had the crowd going wild — would have been even better.
“Had I not had to sit that long, I had to sit for 45 or 30 minutes and it was much colder, it was in the 20s,” Franklin said, of the performance where both her voice and her hat got noticed.
“I just wished I could have sung the moment I got there,” she said. “If I could have walked on immediately and sung it wouldn’t have affected my voice the way it did.”
The 70 year-old music legend did admit to lip-synching once when she performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the Detroit Pistons took on the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals in June of 2004.
So, does she think it’s wrong what The Queen Bey did?
“I think it’s optional really, it’s up to the artist,” Franklin said. “In 2009, I wanted everything to be live and on the real side for the moment as it actually happened. Those were my feelings for my performance, but having come face to face with 28, 22 degrees I am not surprised she pre-recorded. She wanted her performance to be what she wanted to be and she realized it wasn’t going to be the way she wanted it to be or she was going to be running a risk. That’s probably why she pre-recorded exactly how she wanted it to be heard.”
Franklin added that Kelly Clarkson, who did sing live, and also sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” was “magnificent” as well.
“I enjoyed every minute,” Franklin said, adding that she “loved” Clarkson’s arrangement of the song.
Franklin said she enjoyed James Taylor’s performance and was quite emotional throughout the entire ceremony.
“From the beginning to the end, I was crying throughout the ceremony at different times,” Franklin said. “Looking at the history of the president coming to the point he came to, looking to where it came from the Civil Rights movement to yesterday and I think most of the country was crying.”
She said she wasn’t more moved than four years ago when Obama became the first African-American president, but noted that the experience is very different watching it from home.
“It’s one thing to be there to perform and another to be able to sit at home and watch it on TV, it’s a completely different perspective,” she said.
Despite Franklin’s graciousness to Beyonce, what is not clear in the whole controversy is what exactly happened. Beyonce’s spokesperson did not return numerous phone calls and e-mails throughout the day Tuesday and she didn’t weigh in herself.
So, did she or didn’t she?
A U.S. Marine Band spokeswoman said Tuesday they are not “in a position to assess.”
Captain Kendra N. Motz, Media Officer of the U.S. Marine Band, said the Presidential Inaugural Committee requested they accompany Beyonce in her performance, but “there was no opportunity for Ms. Knowles-Carter to rehearse with the Marine Band before the Inauguration so it was determined that a live performance by the band was ill-advised for such a high-profile event.”
“Each piece of music scheduled for performance in the Inauguration is pre-recorded for use in case of freezing temperatures, equipment failure, or extenuating circumstances,” Motz said in a statement. “Regarding Ms. Knowles-Carter’s vocal performance, no one in the Marine Band is in a position to assess whether it was live or pre-recorded.”
However, earlier in the day Tuesday another spokesperson for the U.S. Marine Corps band told ABC News she did in fact lip-synch.
“We all know Beyonce can sing,” Master Sgt. of the U.S. Marine Band Kristin duBois told ABC News Tuesday. “We all know the Marine Corps Band can play. We do not know why she decided to go with the pre-recorded music at the last minute.”
DuBois later added that, to her knowledge, Beyonce was not singing. It was Beyonce’s voice, but a pre-recorded version heard by about a million people in Washington and millions more on television.
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