Bowing Out Gracefully: Al Jarreau, Anita Baker and Aretha Franklin Announces Retirements

Posted February 9, 2017 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

Three legacy artists are announcing retirements from music biz — with details

There’s an familiar saying that goes like this: “If you’re going to bow out, go out while on top.” 

For fans of legacy artists Anita Baker, Al Jarreau and Aretha Franklin, they were dealt such news recently, all with obviously different reasoning and circumstances.

For Baker fans, her announcement is the most surprising. After giving us the best that she got during her reign at Elektra Records and later signing to Blue Note in 2005, and dropping two successful albums, the comeback My Everything and seasonal holiday disc (Christmas Fantasy), Baker took some time off and reemerged with the announcement of her third disc with Blue Note, Only Forever. Several sessions were done with Don Was and the Underdogs. Even a stunning cover of Tyrese’s “Lately,” was released to the public. That song, which debut at number ten on the Urban AC charts, also captured a Grammy Award nomination for Best Traditional R&B Performance. Only Forever was due for release in 2013 but has not seen the light of day.

It seems like it will be “only forever” when Baker’s shelved album will drop, now that the eight-time Grammy winning soul singer, now 59, has decided to retire. On Twitter, Baker posted a series of tweets in mid-January that echoed her thankfulness of finally retiring from the music industry. “Lotta rumors out there. No tour. No CD. #Retired,” she wrote. 

There is no exact word on the cause of Baker’s untimely retirement, but there may be some indication of disagreement with her contract at Blue Note, since the near-complete album was shelved. And her 2008 divorce with her longtime husband Walter Bridgport, Jr, also a manager during her lucrative years, may have added more fuel to the fire. During proceedings, Baker faced a potential stint in jail for contempt over her divorce settlement with Bridgforth. She also refused to sign documents that could turn over a portion of her music royalties to her ex-husband, which would be pulled from an even-split of two Baker albums (Rhythm of Love and Giving You the Best That I Got), but ultimately avoided jail after explaining her position to the judge. Bridgforth claimed that his half of the royalties from Atlantic and Rhino records amounted to $12,000 in 2009.

The circumstances around Al Jarreau’s retirement are much severe. The beloved seven-time Grammy winning jazz singer with over fifty years in the business was forced to retire after doctors asked that he cancel all of his touring dates in 2017 due to health concerns. Jarreau, 76, is being hospitalized and battling extreme exhaustion, according to a statement published on his website. He is improving slowly, but he is taking the lead from his medical advisors to cancel all dates in 2017 and will ultimately retire “with complete sorrow.” 

Jarreau rose to fame in the ’80’s with his crossover hit “We’re In This Love Together” (#15 pop, #6 AC) and went on to perform the theme song to the Cybill Shepherd/Bruce Willis-starring hit ABC dramaedy, Moonlighting. He had two health scares in 2010 and 2012 after battling respiratory ailments and then being diagnosed with pneumonia, causing him to ultimately cancel several dates in France. He would make a full recovery and would continue his touring regimen until 2017.

The Queen of Soul is in better health today, but she wants to retire after putting in 56 years into the music industry. She will do so later this year — that’s according to a recent on-air interview with Local 4 News in Detroit. But first, Franklin will release one more studio album, one that’s slated to include production work and new music from Stevie Wonder, a legacy artist who ironically she has not worked with yet aside from her gold-certified cover of the once-vaulted composition “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do).” Franklin’s forthcoming still-untitled album is slated for release sometime in September. Franklin vows to do a small six-month tour for the disc and to do “select things” throughout the year.  The legendary Grammy-winning icon, best known for her storied career at Atlantic Records and rebirth at Clive Davis’s Arista, wants to focus on enjoying time with her grandchildren, who are now preparing to leave for college life.

But don’t expect Franklin, 74, to bow out completely. She promises to keep “the one or two concerts in every month” within her calendar. That’s good news to us all.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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