DETROIT, MI — The world is saying a final goodbye to the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin Friday and took it to church. The celebration of her life was an all-day ceremony with celebrities, politicians, music lovers and family members honoring the icon’s contributions to the world of music, civil rights and female empowerment.
Ariana Grande, Faith Hill, Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia and Shirley Caesar performed, along with Ron Isley, Chaka Khan, Yolanda Adams, Jennifer Holliday and Aretha Franklin’s son, Edward Franklin.
Speakers included former President Bill Clinton, Smokey Robinson, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Bishop T.D. Jakes.
Some 1,000 fans in line Friday morning were able to get into the church to see the blockbuster celebration and pay their last respects.
More than 100 pink Cadillacs have also lined the streets of the city, coming from all around the country, a nod to her hit “Freeway of Love.”
Special moments from the funeral
Many locals shared their personal reflections on the Queen’s life and their relationship with her around the area.
JoAnn Watson, of the Detroit City Council, who knew her well, shared that Franklin was a woman of great power and class, a daddy’s girl at heart, and authentic Detroit soul.
Gov. Rick Snyder talked about how special Franklin was to Michigan, including Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources announcing that her voice was deemed as a national treasure in the 1980s.
“That strikes you right in the heart,” he said. “Aretha Franklin is timeless. Her gift will keep on giving.”
Others from around the country spoke to her contributions to society too.
Activist and minister Al Sharpton reminisced on her impact in civil rights, calling her the “soundtrack” of the movement.
“Aretha franklin was given special gifts but she used it in a special way,” he told the crowd of thousands gathered at Greater Grace Temple, saying she was an activist when it wasn’t popular and a feminist before it was a movement. “She stood for something. She represented the best in our community and she fought for our community until the end. She fought for everybody.”
Sharpton also called out President Donald Trump’s comment that Aretha Franklin had “worked” for him, correcting him, saying she “performed” for him instead.
“Aretha never took orders from nobody but God,” he said.
He also read a letter written by former president Barack Obama.
“From a young age she rocked the world of anyone who had the pleasure of hearing her voice,” the letter read. “Arethas work reflected the very best of the American story, in all of its hope, and heart, boldness and unmistakable beauty.”
Her family also took the stage to remember her as a personal figure and share intimate memories, including her young granddaughter Victorie Franklin.
“Nothing sounds better to me than hearing my grandma sing,” she said, sharing her own aspirations of being a performer “She makes you feel something.”
Her words were received by clapping and cheering as she shared her journey learning the importance of being “Aretha Franklin’s granddaughter.”
“To know i have that running through my blood, that’s she’s a part of who I am, there’s nothing like that,” she said.
Her other grandkids spoke of her teaching them to honor God and how to handle success. Cristal Franklin, her niece and namesake (her middle name is Aretha), thanked everyone for loving her aunt, for the fans who bought her album, the reporters who told her story and the ones who brought her in to perform.
She also spoke of the dinners her aunt cooked her and her college roomate, the emeralds she bought her for graduation and how she taught her to always take photos of special moments.
“The one who could bring men and women to tears with her voice,” she said. “And the only one who could call me Crissy.”
The occasion was also joyous as people recanted their favorite past times and memories of her.
Former president Bill Clinton, one of the day’s big speakers, had the crowd laughing sharing their conversations and interactions. He talk about being awestruck at her autobiography, her energy and talent while performing, and being an “Aretha groupie” with his wife Hillary.
He even took out his cell phone and played one of his favorite songs, marveling at the idea of how much music a phone can hold.
“She cared about broken people, she cared about people who were disappointed or the people who didn’t quite succeed as much as she did,” he told everyone.
Among the other cheerful remembrances that were shared were those of retired 36th District Court judge and TV personality Greg Mathis, who was a good friend and confidant of Aretha Franklin.
He shared of their very last conversation about him not wanting to get ridiculed for standing up for the Flint water crisis.
Aretha told him, “You scared? You’re supposed to be from Detroit, what are you scared of?” he shared.
“Her last words to me were taken from the greatest song she’s performed,” he said. “She looked at me and said, ‘You go back up there and you sock it to ’em!’ So in honor of my sister, I’m going to Flint and I’m gonna sock it to ’em, sock it to ’em, sock it to ’em.”
Mildred Gaddis, a close friend, summed her friend up as strong, methodical and classy. Most of all, memorable.
“Aretha franklin remained relevant for 60 years. Trends come and go but she remained relevant,” she said. “If we love aretha the way we say we do, we need to keep her legacy going.”
A goodbye fit for a queen
Franklin’s body had been lying in state at the Charles H Wright Museum of African American History over recent days, as thousands of fans gathered to pay their respects to the singer. The star was dressed in a new outfit every day during the public viewing.
For her funeral, she was in a sparkling full-length gold dress with sequined heels. Her body arrived at the Greater Grace Temple in a white 1940 Cadillac LaSalle hearse. It was the same vehicle that was used to carry Franklin’s father, Rev. CL Franklin in 1984; as well as Temptations singer David Ruffin in 1991 and civil rights activist Rosa Parks in 2005.
Franklin was buried in a 24-carat, gold-plated casket made of solid bronze. The interior is finished with champagne velvet, and stitched with her name and her title, “Queen of Soul”, in gold metallic thread.
She will be buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit.
Take a look at the full program from Friday:
Aretha Franklin Funeral Program by Jessica Strachan on Scribd
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Lead photo: Aretha Franklin performs at the House of Blues in Los Angeles in 2008. (AP Photo/Shea Walsh, file)