Hundreds Gather To Honor Aretha Franklin
The remains of Aretha Franklin are carried from the New Bethel Baptist Church following a final public viewing on August 30, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan – Source: Scott Olson/Getty Images North America.
Hundreds gathered at Detroit’s Greater Grace Church on Friday morning to honor the legendary Aretha Franklin, who died on Aug. 16 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, according to Jem Aswad of the well known entertainment industry news magazine Variety. Outside the ceremony pink Cadillacs lined the street, referencing her ’80s hit “Freeway of Love.” Inside, floral arrangements from Diana Ross, Tony Bennett and Barbra Streisand greeted mourners in the sanctuary’s entrance. White and pink flowers were assembled at the front of the church; the words “A Celebration Fit for the Queen” were projected above the golden casket.
The ceremony got underway about 90 minutes behind schedule. “It took us a little time to get in here, but I don’t believe the Queen would have had it any other way,” the church’s pastor said in his opening welcoming remarks. “You cannot celebrate the legacy of an icon in a couple hours.”
Dr. E.L. Branch, Pastor of Third New Hope Church, followed. “She was classy enough to sing on the most prominent stage of the world, but homegirl enough to make potato salad and fried chicken.
“She is not here; she is risen.”
After several prayers, Faith Hill was the first performer, singing a powerful version of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Al Sharpton, Bill Clinton and Jesse Jackson swayed along.
Ariana Grande was the next performer to take the stage. She delivered pitch-perfect rendition of Franklin’s iconic “You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman)” after which the officiating reverend joked that when he saw Grande listed on the program, he thought it was “a new item on Taco Bell.” He recognized Grande as “an icon herself.”
Reverend Sharpton delivered a message from Barack and Michelle Obama in which the former president remarked that Franklin “rocked the world of anyone who had the pleasure to hear her voice” and played a vital role in “advancing important causes through the power of song.” To sum up, Obama stated that Franklin “reflected the very best of the American story.”
The influence of Aretha Franklin on the civil rights movement was a theme of Sharpton’s speech. Her fellow longtime activist noted that Aretha Franklin was a “freedom fighter” and that gospel music was at her core. He also took a dig at President Trump’s controversial comment that Aretha Franklin “worked for” him several times. “She never took orders from nobody but God,” said Sharpton.
One of the most touching moments of the service occurred shortly afterward, when several congregations members began spontaneously dancing — the band fell in, the pastor said “you’ve got 60 seconds,” but the gospel-style rave-up went on for several minutes as the crowd joined in.