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‘A Tribute to Aretha Franklin’ in Final Week of Tour…NYC Date Features Damien Sneed, Karen Clark Sheard and Valerie Simpson

Damien Sneed, the multi-talented bandleader, composer, musician, and vocalist, finishes the final week of his 25-city sold-out North American tour, A Tribute to Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul. Presented by IMG Artists, this dynamic presentation celebrates the amazing musical legacy of the late Ms. Franklin, arranged and musically directed by Sneed, and features an accomplished cast of jazz, gospel, and soul musicians and vocalists. The tour kicked off Thursday, February 3, 2022, at the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and concludes on Sunday, March 20, 2022, at the Kupferberg Center for the Arts at Queens College in Flushing, NY, where both Karen Clark Sheard and Valerie Simpson will be featured as special guests.
With a career spanning several generations and a multitude of genres, Aretha Franklin earned her title, “The Queen of Soul.” Beloved by musicians and listeners alike, Aretha is recognized as one the most successful female recording artists in history. Aretha Franklin continued to perform well into the later years of her illustrious life. During this time, musician, vocalist, and composer Damien Sneed toured with Ms. Franklin, developing a strong mentee relationship with the soul legend. In Tribute to Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul, Sneed pays homage to the monarch herself with fresh renditions of her most cherished hits, including “How I Got Over,” “Respect,” “Say A Little Prayer,” and others.
Also joining Sneed on tour are featured vocalists Chenee Campbell, Markita Knight, Anitra Raquel McKinney, and Alicia Peters-Jordan, all of whom have performed with Sneed on numerous concert events, tours, and recordings. The band features Alfred Rutherford on Hammond B3 organ and keys, Ronald “CJay” Alexander on bass guitar, Nathaniel “Nat” Townsley on drums, and Gabriel Michael Carter on aux keys.
In February, Valerie Simpson, a recipient of the Grammy Trustee Award, and Songwriters Hall of Fame honoree kicked off the tour with Sneed as a special guest at The Parker Playhouse in Ft. Lauderdale, FL (February 3); and continued to South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center in Cutler Bay, FL (February 5); the Opelika Center for the Performing Arts in Opelika, AL (February 7); and the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota, FL (February 9); Gettysburg College, Majestic Theater in Gettysburg, PA (February 16); followed by James Madison University, The Forbes Center for the Performing Arts in Harrisonburg, VA (February 17); Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts in Storrs, CT (February 19); Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in Troy, NY (February 20); St. Johnsburg Academy, Fuller Hall in St. Johnsbury, VT (February 21); Berklee Performance Center in Boston, MA (February 25); TELUS Centre, Koerner Hall in Toronto, ON Canada (February 26); Christopher Cohan Center in San Luis Obispo, CA (March 2); Poway Center for the Performing Arts in Poway, CA (March 4); and the Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto, CA (March 6).
On February 12, Karen Clark Sheard, a four-time Grammy and multiple Stellar and Dove Award-winning gospel legend joined Sneed at Florida State University, Ruby Diamond Concert Hall in Tallahassee, FL. She later continued to Eppley Auditorium in Culver, IN, (March 8); Hancher Auditorium at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, IA (March 10); Pablo Center at the Confluence in Eau Claire, WI (March 11); Marcus Performing Arts Center, Uihlein Hall in Milwaukee, WI (March 12); and Governors State University, Center for Performing Arts in University Park, IL (March 13).
During the final week of the tour, Clark Sheard will continue onto the Wilson Center at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, NC (Tuesday, March 15); Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morriston, NJ (Thursday, March 17); Kimmel Cultural Campus, Merriam Theater in Philadelphia, PA (Friday, March 18); McCarter Theatre at Princeton University in Princeton, NJ (Saturday, March 19) and the tour concludes at the Kupferberg Center for the Arts at Queens College in Flushing, NY (Sunday, March 20).
Aretha Franklin was a giant of popular music and a global cultural icon. One of the best-selling musical artists of all time, with more than 100 million records sold worldwide, the undisputed “Queen of Soul” created an amazing legacy of more than six decades. She had sung before heads of state and foreign royals and gained admiration from fans, colleagues, and fellow artists across all genres. She is known all over the world simply by her first name: Aretha.
Her vocal mastery and artistic excellence have been recognized numerous times throughout her distinguished career. Twice voted as the number one Greatest Singer of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine, and her signature hit “Respect” was also named by Rolling Stone as the number one Song of All Time. Franklin is the recipient of the U.S.A.’s highest civilian honor, The Presidential Medal of Freedom; she is also an 18-time Grammy Award winner and a recipient of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement and a Grammy Living Legend honor. Aretha was the youngest individual ever to receive the coveted Kennedy Center Honor; the first female inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; the second female inductee into the US Music Hall of Fame; and an inductee into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. In 2019, Franklin was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation Prize for her contribution to American music and culture. That same year, Franklin’s family was posthumously presented with The Aretha Franklin ICON Award by the Stellar Gospel Music Award, which is now awarded annually to a Gospel music legend.
Aretha has been proclaimed internationally as “the voice of the civil rights movement, the voice of Black America,” and a “symbol of Black equality.” In 1968, her spiritually uplifting voice was heard around the world singing at the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and in 1972 at the funeral of the Queen of Gospel Mahalia Jackson. Aretha’s acclaimed voice was declared a “natural resource of the state” in 1985 by the Department of Natural Resources of the State of Michigan. Aretha would later reach a milestone in her historic career by singing at the first inauguration of President Barack Obama.
As a multi-genre recording artist and instrumentalist, Damien Sneed is a pianist, vocalist, organist, composer, conductor, arranger, producer, and arts educator whose work spans multiple genres. He has worked with opera, classical, jazz, pop, R&B, and gospel legends, including the late Aretha Franklin and Jessye Norman, which he is featured on Norman’s final recording, Bound For The Promised Land on Albany Records. He also worked with Wynton Marsalis, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Ashford & Simpson, Brandie Inez Sutton, Raehann Bryce-Davis, J’Nai Bridges, Lawrence Brownlee, and many others. Sneed has served as music director for Grammy Award-winning gospel artists The Clark Sisters, Richard Smallwood, Donnie McClurkin, Hezekiah Walker, Marvin Sapp, Karen Clark Sheard, Dorinda Clark-Cole, and Kim Burrell, among others.
Sneed’s current studio recording is Damien Sneed: Unplugged, an all-gospel collection of soulful and inspirational songs, recorded in a spare studio setting with Sneed on piano and vocals alongside several noted vocalists, including Chenee Campbell, Linny Smith, Tiffany Stevenson, and Matia Washington. In January 2020, Sneed released his debut classical album, Classically Harlem and We Shall Overcome Deluxe on his boutique label, LeChateau Earl Records, which was established in 2009 to reflect his varied musical interests. Previous recordings also include Jazz In Manhattan (September 2019); The Three Sides of Damien SneedClassical, Jazz and Sanctified Soul (July 2018); Broken To Minister: The Deluxe Edition (March 2015); Spiritual Sketches (June 2013); and Introspections LIVE (January 2010). Sneed is a 2020 Dove Award winner for his work as a featured producer and writer on The Clark Sisters’ project, The Return, released on March 13, 2020.
For more information on Damien Sneed and LeChateau Earl Records, go to and
Valerie Simpson is half of the songwriting-performing-producing entity known as Ashford & Simpson, an award-winning collaboration with her late husband Nick Ashford that began in the 1960s. Together they have penned such classic hits as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “You’re All I Need to Get By,” “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand,” “I’m Every Woman,” “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” “Solid,” “Your Precious Love,” “The Boss, “It’s My House,” “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” and many others.
Simpson serves on the board of the ASCAP Foundation where a monetary award, the REACH OUT AND TOUCH Award honoring Nick Ashford, has been established to aid struggling songwriters. In recent years, Valerie has toured with Dave Koz as a special guest and with Paul Shaffer & The World’s Most Dangerous Band. Four Ashford & Simpson songs were featured in the Broadway hit Motown: The Musical, which has toured the country. “I’m Every Woman” was featured in The Bodyguard: The Musical. In 2018, Simpson was featured in a limited engagement in Broadway’s CHICAGO, The Musical, in the role of Mama Morton. The songs of Ashford & Simpson are in constant play through commercials and documentaries (Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston), feature films, and television shows. Ashford & Simpson have rightfully earned their place in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, where the duo was inducted in 2002. In 2019, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences presented the Trustees Award to Ashford & Simpson in a televised program adding yet another exciting new dimension to a diversified career. Valerie Simpson owns and runs the popular New York City’s Ashford & Simpson’s Sugar Bar, a restaurant and music club, where young writers-singers-musicians have a platform to perform.
Gospel music legend, Karen Clark Sheard is a four-time Grammy Award-winner with multiple Stellar and Dove Award wins. She is a part of a musical dynasty and is renowned throughout the music industry for her one-of-a-kind multi-octave vocal range and ability. Her musical style, both with the legendary Clark Sisters and as a solo artist, has inspired a host of today’s brightest pop divas, including Queen Latifah, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Missy Elliott, and Faith Evans, among countless others.
Through the years, The Clark Sisters have recorded twenty albums, including the GMA Dove Award-winner and Grammy Award-nominated Heart and Soul (1987) and Grammy Award-nominated Conqueror (1988) and Sincerely (1983), while crafting enduring gospel anthems such as “Endow Me,” “Pray for the USA,” “Name It Claim It” and “Is My Living in Vain?”
In 1997, Clark Sheard launched a solo career with Finally Karen on Island Black Music. An instant hit, it sold nearly half a million copies, garnered four Stellar Awards (Female Vocalist of the Year, Contemporary Female Vocalist of the Year, Music Video of the Year, and Best Children’s Performance for “Will of God,” featuring daughter Kierra Sheard) and a Grammy nomination. Clark Sheard continued her solo career with other hit CDs, including 2nd Chance (Elektra, 2002), The Heavens Are Telling (Elektra, 2003) and the GMA Dove Award winner, It’s Not Over (Word Records, 2006).
In 2007, she reunited with her sisters, The Clark Sisters, for their No. 1 comeback album, Live…One Last Time (EMI Gospel), for which The Clark Sisters won the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Gospel Album. They won a second Grammy for Best Gospel Performance for “Blessed and Highly Favored,” the lead single from that album. Clark Sheard, who wrote and led the song, won the third Grammy that year for Best Gospel Song (a Writer’s Award). The Clark Sisters were part of the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Grammy Awards that year, joining Aretha Franklin, BeBe Winans, and others as performers for the evening.
In 2010, Clark Sheard stepped away from her solo recording work to record “Wait On The Lord,” a duet with Donnie McClurkin from his album, We Are All One. The record won a Grammy Award for Best Gospel Performance, raising Clark Sheard’s Grammy Award total to four.
Lifetime honored The Clark Sisters in a biopic titled The Clark Sisters: The First Ladies of Gospel, which details their humble beginnings, struggles to find their place, to later becoming the best-selling Gospel group in the music world. The movie first aired in April 2020 and featured re-recordings of some of The Clark Sisters’ biggest hits like “You Brought The Sunshine.” The biopic earned raves for its actors, including Clark Sheard’s daughter and fellow gospel songstress Kierra Sheard.

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