‘It’s time to crown the queen’: Celebrities, politicians pay tribute to Aretha Franklin at Detroit funeral

Figures from Bill Clinton to Ariana Grande show up to honour the Queen of Soul

Emily Shugerman
New York
Friday 31 August 2018 20:46
Reverend Al Sharpton mentions Trump during speech at Aretha Franklin's funeral

Celebrities, politicians, and fans have paid homage to the legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin, who died earlier this month of pancreatic cancer.

Franklin, renowned for hit songs such as "Respect" and "Chain of Fools", and celebrated for her earth-shaking live performances, was referred to for much of her life as the “Queen of Soul”. On Friday, in Detroit, she received a send-off fit for royalty.

Doors opened at the Greater Grace Temple at 8am for Franklin’s funeral, welcoming a procession of some of the most respected names in music and politics. Hillary Clinton and the former President Bill Clinton entered the chapel to a standing ovation, according to CNN, while celebrities such as Whoopi Goldberg, the actress, and Ariana Grande, the singer, streamed in behind them.

Vocalists Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand and Diana Ross greeted attendees as they arrived, accompanied by the sounds of the Aretha Franklin Orchestra, according to the Detroit Free Press. Projected on the walls of the sanctuary were the words: “A Celebration Fit For The Queen”.

Mr Clinton, the Reverend Al Sharpton, and the Reverend Jesse Jackson delivered remarks at the funeral, along with family members including Franklin’s niece, Sabrina Owens, and lifelong friends such as singer Smokey Robinson. The Reverend Jasper Williams Jr of Salem Baptist Church delivered the eulogy.

Aretha Franklin's casket arrives at the Museum of African American History for the first day of public viewing

In his remarks, Mr Sharpton emphasised Franklin's contributions to social movements, recalling how the singer once embarked on an 11-city tour to raise money for the Reverend Martin Luther King.

"She was a civil rights activist when it wasn't popular," Mr Sharpton said. "She gave us pride, and she gave us a regal bar to reach. And that's why we’re all here."

While organisers insisted the ceremony was a service, not a show, the lineup of musical performers was enough to make any concert organiser jealous. Singer Faith Hill started the programme with a classic hymn, and Grande followed up with the Franklin hit "A Natural Woman".

Ms Franklin's body rested in a 24-karat gold-plated casket made of solid bronze, with a champagne velvet interior. The words “Queen of Soul” and “Aretha Franklin” were embroidered on the interior in gold thread. The casket will be buried at the Woodlawn Cemetery alongside Franklin’s father, minister CL Franklin, and the civil rights icon Rosa Parks.

Outside, dozens of pink Cadillacs lined the street in honour of Franklin’s hit song, "Freeway of Love". The singer was carried to the church in a 1940 Cadillac LaSalle hearse – the same one that transported her father. That morning, Cadillac took out full-page, powder-pink ad in the local paper reading simply: “Respect”.

The 1967 hit was performed across the Atlantic that morning, where the Band of the Welsh Guards played their own version of Respect during the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

In Detroit, where Franklin spent most of her life, Mayor Mike Duggan announced the city would rename Chene Park – a popular, historic music venue – as Aretha Franklin Park.

“When performers for generations to come from around the world come here to perform, they will be reminded that they are performing at the home of the Queen of Soul,” Mr Duggan said.

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