It seems clear that Carey is referring to Celine Dion, especially since Carole King has discussed the prickly vibe of that “Natural Woman” rendition previously. In a TV interview, King recalled, “The part where Celine was supposed to sing, Aretha was still singing.”

Dion continued to blow her way through the song, which King praised as evidence of “spunk” and “fight.” “I just respected her so much for the classy way that she handled that situation,” said King. (Personally, I always thought of this performance as just divas being divas and getting ostentatious.)

Advertisement

Not so for Carey, though it was what happened next that the singer/songwriter/memoir writer takes the most issue with. The song ended and to close out, Franklin began ad-libbing gospel, operating as a bandleader and calling on her fellow divas to join in. But then:

So the dueling diva had gone too far before (in my humble opinion) and appeared to try and outsing Aretha. That. Happened. I couldn’t believe anyone would try to upstage Aretha Franklin on her tribute, while singing about Jesus, no less. Maybe it was a big culture gap, but it seemed like sheer lunacy to me, and I wanted no part of it. As it was happening, my body began to involuntarily back up out of the Diva lineup and I headed back to join the backup singers, most of whom I knew. It seemed like blasphemy to me, and I wanted to be out of striking distance should the lightning come.

Advertisement

The performance did include a veritable showdown between Franklin and Dion that featured Franklin sing-asking Dion repeatedly, “Do you know Jesus? Do you know the Lord?”

Carey said she was “mortified” at the display. Last year to Extra, Dion recalled her state during the performance: “When you’re next to Aretha, you’re out of your brain. You’re out of your body. You’re out of your soul.” Hence the lunacy, I suppose. Dion also reported that Franklin did not talk to her backstage.

Advertisement

To cap the anecdote, Carey writes of an ensuing conversation with her adopted musical godmother, Patti LaBelle. LaBelle told her, Carey writes: “Mariah, if you would’ve participated in that hoedown, I would’ve had to come slap you in the face.”