Ariana Grande pays tribute to Aretha Franklin with powerful performance

NEW YORK — Pop singer Ariana Grande opened Thursday’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” with a powerful tribute to Aretha Franklin.

The Queen of Soul — as she was known — passed away Thursday after battling pancreatic cancer. She was 76.

According to TMZ, Grande was scheduled to perform on the late night talk show ahead of Franklin’s death — but was not expected to sing.

Producers approached her about performing with The Roots to honor the legendary singer.

Grande initially declined the offer saying she was too emotional about the death and that she considered Franklin her “hero.” But she changed her mind when The Roots front man, Questlove, talked to her about it.

TMZ reported that Grande got a standing ovation after performing “Natural Woman” and then broke down in tears when she walked off stage.

Earlier in the day, Grande posted a picture on Instagram of her with Franklin. She didn’t write anything, but included dozens of heart emojis.