With the news of Aretha Franklin’s passing this morning, fans from around the world have been sharing stories of her powerful music from all sorts of perspectives. Percussionist and drummer Taku Hirano had the chance to share the stage with her for two special performances later in her career: Oprah’s farewell show in 2011 and a tribute to Nelson Mandela at the BET Honors Awards in 2014. He took a few moments off from rehearsal for Fleetwood Mac’s upcoming tour to share those stories with Drum.

Taku Hirano

Taku Hirano

“To see her in person and just take in her presence was that of being around royalty,” he says. “To hear that voice in person was pretty unreal, especially considering the songs I did with her were ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ and ‘Amazing Grace’ with a 100 person choir. People in the audience actually were overcome with emotion. I had chills!”


He continues, describing her style quiet confidence: “She was a woman of very few words in those rehearsal situations. She always came in wearing a long mink coat, and when she sat at the piano, she would throw it on the floor.

“In rehearsals, under the mink she usually had on a hoodie that said ‘Michigan’ on it… and knit winter cap on. Very cool and nonchalant. Her longtime musical director would accompany her and let the musical director of our house band know what she wanted. Though she stood center stage in both instances, for rehearsals she actually played piano to show exactly what she wanted in terms of accompaniment, which was an absolute treat.”