Don Cheadle and Ariana Grande recall random phone calls from the Queen of Soul, while Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah were touched by her music and social activism.
Aretha Franklin's death resonated through late-night, with several of the hosts and guests sharing stories about the late Queen of Soul, who passed away early Thursday morning at her home in Detroit after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.
While the guest were booked weeks in advance, and most of the shows were already written and ready to go, the passing of the Queen of Soul was a monumental enough event that some of them simply had to address it immediately. Ariana Grande was on "The Tonight Show" to promote her new album "Sweetness," but reluctantly agreed to open the show with a musical tribute to Franklin.
Later, she shared the story of the thrill she received when Aretha Franklin called her out of the blue. It must have been something Franklin liked to do, because Don Cheadle had a similar story on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," when Franklin called him randomly to discuss his Miles Davis biopic, "Miles Ahead."
Meanwhile, Stephen Colbert admitted to his own stupidity when he got the opportunity to see Franklin perform live a few years ago, while Trevor Noah chatted candidly between takes on "The Daily Show" about her lifelong battle for racial and gender equality.
Check out all of the late-night tributes to Aretha Franklin below.
"The Daily Show with Trevor Noah"
Trevor Noah often shares some of the discussions he has with his audience between the taped scenes of his show. So basically it's him talking during camera blocking or lighting decisions and the like.
On Thursday, he posted video of his thoughts on the passing of Aretha Franklin, touching on her legacy of fighting injustice throughout her career. "It's one of those examples where you see an artist using their platform to go beyond just making money and doing what they do," he said. "You read these beautiful stories about how Aretha Franklin had it in her contract that she wouldn't perform for segregated audiences. If audiences were segregated by race, she was like, 'No, I'm not gonna perform.'"
On top of that, Franklin was championing the rights of women in her songwriting. "She was making songs that at the time were crazy when you think of how women were situation in society," Noah pointed out. "I mean, the #MeToo movement has shown that we still have a long way to go, but at that time it was pretty much like women just keep quiet, and she was up there like, 'R-E-S-P-E-C-T!'"
He did close on a lighter note, talking about the stories that Franklin wouldn't perform unless she was paid cash-in-hand before she hit the stage. "She was the original, 'Bitch better have my money,'" he joked.
"The Late Show with Stephen Colbert"
Over on "The Late Show," Stephen Colbert put egg on his own face, admitting how foolishly naive he was about the sheer strength and power of Aretha Franklin's instrument throughout her career, from her first note to her last.
"I was lucky enough to see her perform live once," he told his audience. "Back in 2015, or something like that, I was the host of the Kennedy Center Awards here on the CBS television network. And she was playing 'Natural Woman' for Carole King in center stage on a grand piano."
It was an iconic moment that brought the audience to their feet by its conclusion, but Colbert remembered himself just as it was beginning. "I was standing stage right, just past the curtain, watching her," he recalled. "And as she started, I said to the man standing next to me, one of the stagehands. I said, 'Man, I wish I could have seen her when she was younger, when she was in full voice.' And boy am I stupid."
At this, he played back that performance, proving that the Queen of Soul never lost her vocal strength, her command of a stage and a crowd, or even one ounce of what made her the greatest of all time.
Ariana Grande on "The Tonight Show"
But while she may have been an indisputable master on the phone, she was still an older woman in a modern world. Ariana Grande shared a story of a random phone call she receieved from Franklin one day with Jimmy Fallon's audience. "She called me and she goes, 'Hi, it's Aretha.' And I was like, 'Franklin?'" Grande laughed.
Apparently, Franklin had called her because one of her young relatives was a singer as well and she wanted Grande to give his music a listen. "I was like, 'Oh my god, I'd be honored to listen. Thank you for thinking of me. Text me the MP3 or something,'" Grande told Fallon. "And she was like, 'Well, I don't know how to do that so I'm gonna send it to you.' And then like four months later I got a package with a CD."
Don Cheadle on "Jimmy Kimmel Live"
Don Cheadle directed and starred in a biopic about Miles Davis released in 2016, and Franklin enjoyed it enough to treat him to a random phone call, as well. He'd already tweeted the story earlier Thursday after her passing, but he shared it agian for Jimmy Kimmel's audience.
"I got this call out of the blue. I was in Hawaii and I got this call on my cell phone; I didn't recognize the number," he told Jimmy Kimmel. "I said, 'Hello,' and I hear, 'I have Miss Aretha Franklin for Don Cheadle.'
"I was like, 'Whoa, yeah put her through," he continued. But then, "Her voice changed, she was like, 'This is Aretha, baby.' So she had called for herself and did the fake voice in case she got somebody else." And all she was doing was calling to tell him she liked his movie.
He also shared one of her text messages on Twitter, which -- as Jemele Hill perfectly put it -- "is proof that whether even if you’re the greatest voice of our time, if you’re a certain age, you still text that way."
she funny ... pic.twitter.com/rF10TWvQkN— Don Cheadle (@DonCheadle) August 16, 2018
We like to imagine there are hundreds of people out there who received random phone calls from Aretha because she had something on her mind or just wanted to tell them she appreciated something they'd created or worked on.
Franklin may be gone, but her generosity and kindness lives on in all those little moments she created in the lives of all the people she touched through her music, her philanthropy, or through a random phone call.