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Aretha Franklin Soars

The Queen of Soul is feeling lighter these days with a new album and a new outlook

She just released her 38th CD, but the number that excites Aretha Franklin is 85. That's how many pounds she's dropped since last fall, when she underwent a health scare and surgery (she won't disclose details). Franklin, 69, is now proudly wearing a size 16.

Q: What can you tell us about your surgery and weight loss?

I definitely did not have gastric bypass, and would not. The weight loss was gradual; I go to the health spa and eat more whole foods. I'd lost 30 pounds before the surgery. My doctor said I'd lose more naturally afterward, and I did.

Q: Are you still dieting?

I'm on maintenance. I like my weight exactly where it is. It looks healthy; let's keep it. I'm on the track and up to a mile now at least three times weekly.

Q: Have you had to buy a new wardrobe?

Absolutely. Nothing fits, and I'm so happy! In fact, tomorrow I have fittings for new gowns.

Q: What has been your proudest career moment?

My happiest moments were singing with my family (sisters Carolyn and Erma and cousin Brenda). Following that would be the Grammy Legend and Lifetime Achievement awards, National Medal of the Arts, and the Congressional Medal. And singing the national anthem for President Obama.

Q: Do you have any plans to retire?

Definitely not. Always semiretire, never retire. Who wants to just sit somewhere? I'm a people person. And I love performing. It's the way it is and the way it's going to be.

Q: In your opinion, what's the best part of growing older?

I couldn't tell you — I don't ever think about it. I'm very young at heart.