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Interview:
Aretha Franklin biographer readies Tribute Edition of his book
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Saturday, August 25, 2018

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Mark Bego had updated his Aretha biography twice since its original publication nearly 30 years ago.



But when reports began surfacing two weeks ago that the singing legend was near death, the Pontiac native knew another edition was in order.

Bego, author of 63 books mostly celebrity biographies got to work quickly and the result is "Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul Tribute Edition," which will officially be published Sept. 18 but will likely begin arriving sooner. The author added a new introduction and ending to the book and an updated discography, as well as some new photos from Franklin's final public performance, at an Elton John AIDS Foundation benefit Nov. 7 in New York City.



"After Aretha had this health scare in 2010 and never really admitted what it was, I was suspicious that something like this would suddenly happen, and I was correct," Bego says. "I saw the reports on the Internet and thought, 'Oh my God, here we go.'



"I called the publisher (Skyhorse Publishing) who had the rights to the book and got my agent on the phone and made the deal for me to update it." Bego had things mostly wrapped up by the time Franklin passed on Aug. 16 at the age of 76, and the presses rolled for the new edition the following day.



"It's been quite the Aretha whirlwind for me," says Bego, who first interviewed the Queen of Soul during 1985, for the Westwood One radio syndicate.



"The Queen of Soul" update the books' first since 2012 is modest, to be sure; Bego could only add 1,000 words for the new edition, just enough to track the events of the past year or so. He conducted interviews with Franklin friends and colleagues the day she died, but space did not allow him to use any of those.



Nevertheless, Bego felt Franklin's death was monumental enough to warrant the quick turnaround.



"I felt Aretha deserved it," Bego explains. "She really deserved to be saluted in a way that was very respectful. Certainly I talk about all kinds of things in this book, but I really feel like it's one of the most respectful views of her that's out there." He particularly wants "The Queen of Soul" to stand up against "Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin," a tell-all by David Ritz, who had collaborated with Franklin unsatisfactorily on her 1999 memoir "Aretha: From These Roots."



"I thought it was really nasty of him to have written her book with her and then turned around and kind of stab her in the back, so to speak," Bego notes. "I wanted to make sure my book eclipsed that one so people could get the real story about her."



Bego hopes a further update of his book may be commissioned so he can use some of the new interviews he's done since her death. And though he's currently working on a book about the Supremes' gowns and style with the group's Mary Wilson, he wouldn't mind being tapped for another kind of Franklin project.



"I'm hoping a screenplay is my next assignment," he says. "I think an Aretha movie is something that needs to be done. I'd love to do that."

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