Epic funeral for Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul

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American soul singer Aretha Franklin, a star on the Atlantic record label. (Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images)

Aretha Franklin had admirers all over the world, but she made Detroit her home. After a multi-day celebration in the Motor City, the Queen of Soul was laid to rest Friday. 

Her invitation-only funeral is being held at Greater Grace Temple, one of the largest and most famous churches in the city.

"Aretha's singing challenged the dangling discords of hate and lies and racism and injustice," the pastor William J. Barber II said. "Her singing was revelation and was revolution."

Former President Bill Clinton described himself as an Aretha Franklin "groupie," saying he had loved her since college. He traced her life's journey and praised her as someone who "lived with courage, not without fear, but overcoming her fears."

He remembered attending her last public performance, at Elton John's AIDS Foundation benefit in November in New York. She looked "desperately ill" but managed to greet him by standing and saying, "How you doing, baby?"

Franklin's homegoing celebration in Detroit, where she was raised, began Monday with a concert at her hometown church, followed by two days of public visitation at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and then another visitation Thursday at New Bethel Church. Thursday night, a concert in her honor was held in downtown Detroit. 


Special coverage Friday for the funeral began at 9 a.m., with the show "R-E-S-P-E-C-T for the Queen," which featured tributes and a look back at all she gave to her city and the world. Immediately following was the funeral service.

She was laid to rest at Woodlawn Cemetery after the funeral.

The service reflected Franklin's strong gospel roots. Among the gospel voices that filled Greater Grace include Marvin Sapp, the Clark Sisters and Vanessa Bell Armstrong.

Gladys Knight segued from "You'll Never Walk Alone" to "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Near the end, Stevie Wonder brought the dwindling audience to their feet, swaying to his classic tribute to love, "As." Jennifer Holliday ended the funeral with "Climbing Higher Mountains," an uptempo gospel original by Franklin herself.


Speakers include Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, city council president Brenda Jones, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, former president Bill Clinton, Al Sharpton, Tyler Perry, Clive Davis, Smokey Robinson, Isaiah Thomas, and more.


The funeral will start with music from the Aretha Franklin Orchestra, but also includes performances by Faith Hill, Ariana Grande, the Clark Sisters, Chaka Khan, Ron Isley, Fantasia, Jennifer Hudson, and Stevie Wonder.


Greater Grace Temple called on people with pink Cadillacs to line up before the funeral in an effort to create a "Freeway of Love" in tribute to Franklin. That's a nod to her funky `80s tune of the same name that prominently featured the car in the lyrics and video.

Those who lined the route got a special perk: The driver of the Caddy and one extra person will be admitted to the funeral.



After the funeral, Franklin was entombed at Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit, along with her father, Rev. C.L. Franklin; brother Cecil Franklin; sisters Carolyn Franklin and Erma Franklin; and nephew, Thomas Garrett. Woodlawn also is the final resting place for Rosa Parks and many of the Motor City's musical elite, including members of the Four Tops. 

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.