“Queen of Pop” Madonna led an impassioned tribute to “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin on Monday as the music world paid its R-E-S-P-E-C-Ts to the superstar at the MTV Video Music Awards.
The show came four days after 76-year-old Franklin died of pancreatic cancer and the industry used the telecast to send Franklin off in style.
“She led me to where I am today, and I know she influenced so many people in this house tonight, in this room tonight,” said Madonna, who turned 60 last Thursday — the day Franklin died.
Franklin has influenced generations of singers with iconic hits including “Natural Woman” and “I Say a Little Prayer.”
But “Respect” (1967) was her signature tune and the broadcast ended with a recording of Aretha belting out the Otis Redding cover as the audience danced wildly.
“I want to thank you, Aretha, for empowering all of us. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Long live the Queen,” Madonna added.
Fast-rising rapper Cardi B — who recently became a mother — was expected to launch the show at New York’s Radio City Music Hall with a song but instead turned heads by simulating breastfeeding onstage.
She left performing duties to Canadian singer and songwriter Shawn Mendes, who treated fans to his acclaimed single “In My Blood,” which chronicles his struggle with anxiety disorder.