Soul icons Aretha Franklin and Patti LaBelle were saluted at the Women of Soul event in Washington, D.C., as part of the annual 'In Performance at the White House' series. R&B songstresses Jill Scott, Janelle Monae and Ariana Grande were among the performers singing classic soul tunes.

President Obama kicked off the festivities with a speech about Aretha Franklin’s early beginnings as a soul artist and how she wowed producers in 1967 at Fame Studio. He also talked about the social impact of the Queen of Soul's most revered song 'Respect.'

"When Aretha first told us what 'R.E.S.P.E.C.T.' meant to her, she had no idea it would become a rallying cry for African-Americans, and women, and then everyone who felt marginalized because of what they looked like or who they loved," he told the audience. "They wanted some respect. Later, when somebody asked her why it had such an impact, she said, “I guess everybody just wants a little respect."

Among the highlights of the evening included a performance by pop phenom Ariana Grande. The 20-year-old singer perform a lithe cover of Whitney Houston’s classic 'I Have Nothing.' She also performed her own song 'Tattooed Heart' off her debut 'Yours Truly.'

Monae also graced the stage to perform an energetic rendition of Shirley Bassey’s James Bond theme 'Goldfinger.' Scott later performed 'Golden' before singing an exuberant cover of Franklin’s 'Rock Steady.'

According to USA Today, it was the event’s honorees who gave the most memorable performances.

LaBelle received a standing ovation for her rendition of 'Over the Rainbow' and 'Lady Marmalade. For the show’s finale, Franklin sung 'I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)' before closing out with a heartfelt performance of 'Amazing Grace.'

The full concert, 'Women of Soul: In Performance at the White House,' will premiere on April 7 at 9PM ET on PBS.

Watch President Obama's Speech at the 'Women of Soul' Event

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