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Queen of Soul to Play Charlie Rangel's Birthday Party

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On Wednesday, U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel will celebrate his 81st birthday in style.

Aretha Franklin, fresh off of her Brooklyn debut this past week, will headline Rangel's birthday fundraising gala at the Grand Ballroom of the Plaza Hotel. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Speaker Christine Quinn are among the guests who have already confirmed for the party.

"I love her," gushed Rangel, saying that Franklin was a long-term acquaintance. "I can't think of anybody that has received the international fame that she enjoys, the presidents that she has sung for, and the fact that everyone on the street believes that she is their best friend."

The Queen of Soul was originally scheduled to perform at last year’s gala but was forced to cancel after an injury, prompting Dionne Warwick and Chuck Jason to play at Rangel's 80th birthday in Franklin's place.

"I am just so glad that she's healthy and she's going to be there," said Rangel, adding that the song he was most looking forward to on Wednesday was "Respect."

"Everybody understands what that means and you can't put a dollar figure on it but it sure makes you feel a hell of a lot better if people respect you," the congressman said. "And I guess every politician strives for that."

Rangel's birthday bash will also serve as a re-election fundraiser -- something you can put a dollar figure on. Donations to attend the party run from $200 (Special Guest) to $10,000 (Rangel Birthday Committee Gala Chair), with a number of other pricing options in between — $500 gets you a spot in “Charlie’s Circle,” for example.  

The gala begins at 6 P.M. on Wednesday.

Updated 8/09/11