Diana Ross. Aretha Franklin. Etta James. Liza Minelli. Harry Connick Jr. Bobby McFerrin. And, now, Erykah Badu.
Last night, Badu made her first-ever appearance at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal and during the trip picked up the Ella Fitzgerald Award she now shares with icons and influences and other household names. It's an honor that, according to the fest, "celebrates the range, versatility and improvisational originality as well as the repertoire of a jazz singer recognized on the international scene."
Badu, featured here just days ago performing the history of hip-hop with The Roots, is now -- officially, finally -- a jazz singer.
"I'm so honored, and I hope Ella hears my voice and my song, because she is one of my greatest influences," Badu said during the briefest of acceptance speeches. Badu is the 17th recipient of the honor.
Following the ceremony, Badu met the press for a much longer thank-you speech -- and a little game of compare-and-contrast between herself and One Of The Greatest Singers Of All Time.
The two are "related but not comparable," said Badu, "from the same tribe, same spirit, same energy. But Ella's voice is an instrument, perfect pitch. What we do have in common is we use our voices like a drum. It's very rhytmic, the way we sing."
You can watch the whole thing below. It's worth it: Beginning around the 3:22 mark, Erykah talks about the music she listened to while growing up here. She mentions how the radio was "the eternal flame in our house"; she talks about her great-grandmother's piano-playing style; she reminisces about going to Arts Magnet and learning jazz from schoolmate Roy Hargrove. And, of course, she breaks into song throughout.
It's a terrific interview.
"I still feel like a little girl from South Dallas, really, that I have not done anything yet," she says when asked about receiving the award. "What a great honor. How can I be compared to such a voice, such a frequency? And the way she makes me feel is the way I wish to make people feel, and if I am doing that, then I am very, very grateful. I do not take it for granted. It is something i will have to explain to m children. It's an amazing honor."