Crusader Staff Report
Thousands of fans across the country and globe are in Detroit to say goodbye to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, whose funeral on Friday capped two weeks of mourning that began when the legendary singer died on August 16 of pancreatic cancer.
Lines stretched for blocks as fans waited hours to catch a final glimpse of Franklin, whose body lay in a gold plated casket in the rotunda of the historic Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Dressed in a ruby dress and matching designer pumps, Franklin went out in style as enormous arrangements of roses flanked her casket. She was a diva and a larger-than-life megastar who wore her royal title with pride, and flashy furs unapologetically. In death, Franklin was no different.
For two days and 48 hours, fans at the Charles H. Wright Museum, filed by the casket to say goodbye to the woman who for six decades lit up millions of homes, churches and radio airwaves with her blockbuster hits like “Respect,” “Think,” and “Amazing Grace.” With the temperature in Detroit hitting 90 degrees, officials and organizers passed out bottles of water to help keep fans hydrated as they waited to pay their final respects to Franklin. Many came wearing custom designed T-shirts covered with images of Franklin. Other fans played Franklin’s songs as they waited to see her one last time. When they entered the building, they heard Franklin’s gospel songs piped through the museum’s sound system.
On Thursday, August 30, another four hour viewing was held at Bethel Baptist Church, the temple of worship that made Franklin’s father, C.L. Franklin, a household name. Across town, a large musical tribute at Detroit’s Chene park was scheduled with a string of artists scheduled to perform. The 6,000 free tickets were gone in less than 15 minutes after Ticketmaster made them available on Monday morning, August, 27.
Even on this sad occasion, Franklin’s funeral was the most anticipated event of them all. Nearly 20 gospel, soul and pop artists were expected to perform in a ceremony that was scheduled to be at least six hours long at megachurch Greater Grace Temple on Detroit’s northwest side. It ended with a procession of pink Cadillacs that followed the hearse along the city’s Woodward Avenue to Detroit’s prominent Woodlawn Cemetery, where Franklin was entombed next to her father, two sisters and nephew.
Former President Bill Clinton, for whom Franklin sang at his inauguration in 1993, attended the funeral but the first Black president and his wife did not. On Wednesday, August 29, a spokesperson for former President Barack Obama confirmed to the Associated Press that neither he nor his wife would attend Franklin’s funeral, but instead, sent a letter to be read during the service.
Franklin sang a memorable rendition of ‘My Country Tis of Thee at Obama’s 2009 inauguration. In 2015 she drew a rousing standing ovation after singing (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman at the Kennedy Center, performing before Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama.
The Obamas issued a statement following Franklin’s August 16 death, which read: “America has no royalty. But we do have a chance to earn something more enduring. Born in Memphis and raised in Detroit, Aretha Franklin grew up performing gospel songs in her father’s congregation. 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. 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.”
Clinton was among the speakers at Franklin’s funeral, as was former Attorney General Eric Holder.
President Donald Trump as of Crusader press time Wednesday did not confirm to the press whether he would attend Franklin’s funeral.
Obama is scheduled to give a eulogy at the funeral of Senator John McCain, who died on Saturday, August 25 of brain cancer. Another former president George W. Bush is expected to attend McCain’s service, which will be held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Before he died, McCain requested that President Trump not attend his funeral.
Franklin, one of the best-selling artists of all time, has a long history with those who hold the nation’s highest office.
She sang at President Jimmy Carter’s Inaugural Gala in 1977.
In 1999, she performed for President Clinton at the White House Correspondents Association’s annual dinner. Later that year, Clinton awarded her the National Medal of Arts and Humanities during a White House ceremony.
President Bush awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.