NPR

Kris Bowers Reflects On Coming 'Full Circle' In Composing The Score For 'Respect'

Aretha Franklin liked how Kris Bowers played piano at a competition in 2011. It was his big break — a fact that he says was with him while he scored a upcoming biopic about the late Queen of Soul.
Kris Bowers performs onstage during Soundcheck: A Netflix Film and Series Music Showcase on Nov. 4, 2019 in Los Angeles, Calif. Source: Matt Winkelmeyer

Kris Bowers' film-scoring career started, strangely enough, with a word of praise from the Queen of Soul — Aretha Franklin.

The 31-year-old composer has been tickling the ivories since he was a little kid, growing up in the Mid-City neighborhood of Los Angeles. He always loved film scores (E.T. was a heavy favorite), and he was one of the few Black students at his arts high school. He studied at Juilliard, and in 2011 he won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition.

That's when he met Aretha Franklin.

"She came to the semifinals," Bowers recalls. "Somebody was like, 'Would you mind meeting someone?' And as I'm getting out there, — and one of the only times I felt speechless in my life. She told me she enjoyed my playing, and then asked for my information. And maybe like a week or two later, she called me, you know, asked me what my plans were, and if I had any ideas about my next steps in my career."

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