By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Contributor
A celebration of the life of Aretha Franklin promises to draw the ultimate A-list guests and a crowd that will swarm Detroit.
The Queen of Soul, who died of pancreatic cancer on Thursday, Aug. 16 at her home in the Motor City, will lie in state at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American history between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 28 and Wednesday, Aug. 29.
The museum is located at 315 E. Warren Street in Detroit.
A private funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 31 at Greater Grace Temple at 23500 West 7 Mile Road in the Motor City, but just for family and friends.
The “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” singer and civil rights icon who became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, will then be buried near Rosa Parks at Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit.
“The NNPA profoundly mourns the passing of our beloved Sister Leader Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin,” said NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
“Her creative genius was matched by her steadfast courage as a freedom-fighting singer and leader for civil rights. Black America and all people of goodwill throughout the world will miss her but never forgotten,” Chavis said.
“Long live the spirit and legacy of Queen Aretha Franklin.”
NNPA Chairman Dorothy Leavell added, “As chairman of NNPA, I send a message of sadness and respect for our beloved Queen whose music genius permeated and resounded around the world.”
America has no royalty but the nation does have a chance to earn something more enduring, former President Barack Obama said.
“For more than six decades since, every time she sang, we were all graced with a glimpse of the divine. Through her compositions and unmatched musicianship, Aretha helped define the American experience,” Obama said
“In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade — our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. She helped us feel more connected to each other, more hopeful, more human. And sometimes she helped us just forget about everything else and dance.
“Aretha may have passed on to a better place, but the gift of her music remains to inspire us all. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace. Michelle and I send our prayers and warmest sympathies to her family and all those moved by her song.”
Motown legend Stevie Wonder and the Rev. Jesse Jackson were among those who visited Franklin in the hours before her death.
Wonder, whose spokesperson had previously denied an interview request to the Washington Informer saying the singer wasn’t doing media, appeared on CBS ‘This Morning,” and broke down when talking about his longtime friend.
“I thought I had cried my last cry,” said Wonder, who will appear in concert at MGM National Harbor for two nights beginning Wednesday, August 29.
The outpouring of love for Franklin, which included tributes from such stars as John Legend, Gladys Knight, Diana Ross, Beyoncé, Barbara Streisand and many others, rings similar to that received after the passing of pop superstar Michael Jackson in 2009.
That she will lie in state at such a large public venue rings similar to when Elvis Presley died in 1977.
Franklin’s influence in music and as a civil rights activists far surpassed Jackson, Presley and most others.
The fourth of five children, Aretha Louise Franklin was born on March 25, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee, to Baptist preacher Reverend Clarence La Vaughan “C. L.” Franklin and Barbara Siggers Franklin, a gospel singer, according to her biography.
Franklin’s musical gifts became apparent at an early age. Largely self-taught, she was regarded as a child prodigy. A gifted pianist with a powerful voice, Franklin got her start singing in front of her father’s congregation.
By the age of 14, she had recorded some of her earliest tracks at his church, which were released by a small label as the album Songs of Faith in 1956. She also performed with C. L.’S traveling revival show and, while on tour, befriended gospel greats such as Mahalia Jackson, Sam Cooke and Clara Ward.
Hitting her stride in 1967 and 1968, Franklin churned out a string of hit singles that would become enduring classics, showcasing Franklin’s powerful voice and gospel roots in a pop framework.
In 1967, the album I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You) was released, and the first song on the album, “Respect”—an empowered cover of an Otis Redding track—reached No. 1 on both the R&B and pop charts and won Aretha her first two Grammy Awards.
She also had Top 10 hits with “Baby I Love You,” “Think,” “Chain of Fools,’” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”
Franklin’s chart dominance soon earned her the title Queen of Soul, while at the same time she also became a symbol of black empowerment during the civil rights movement of the time.
In 1968, Franklin was enlisted to perform at the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during which she paid tribute to her father’s fallen friend with a heartfelt rendition of “Precious Lord.”
Later that year, she was also selected to sing the national anthem to begin the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
In 1987, Franklin became the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and was also awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Detroit.
Earlier this year, Franklin gave her blessings for Jennifer Hudson to portray her in an upcoming biopic about the Queen of Soul’s legendary life.
An all-star tribute concert to Franklin already had been scheduled for New York’s Madison Square Garden and that will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 14.
“Her legacy is larger than life,” said her longtime friend, journalist and filmmaker Roger Friedman, who operates the website, showbiz411.com.
“It’s not just that Rolling Stone called her the number 1 singer of all time, or that she’s the Queen of Soul. Long live the Queen,” Friedman said.