Aretha Franklin Was Given A Queen's Treatment At Her Star-Studded Funeral

Performers and speakers include Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande, former president Bill Clinton, and Tyler Perry.

The life of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, was celebrated in her hometown of Detroit on Friday with a music-filled funeral at Greater Grace Temple.

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Franklin died on Aug. 16.

Former President Bill Clinton, civil rights activists Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and former US Attorney Gen. Eric Holder were among those who addressed the crowd.

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Musician Smokey Robinson, producer Clive Davis, filmmaker Tyler Perry, and former NBA player Isaiah Thomas also spoke.

There were also 15 musical tributes, with performances by Stevie Wonder, Faith Hill, Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande, and others.

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Hill performed "What a Friend We Have in Jesus."

Hudson performed an awe-inspiring rendition of "Amazing Grace."

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Grande performed Franklin's hit "You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman)," written by Carole King.

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It's the same song Grande sang on The Tonight Show just days after Franklin's death.

Chaka Khan performed the gospel song "Going Up Yonder."

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Wonder closed out the program with his song "As (I'll Be Loving You Always)," saying that love was reason they were gathered to celebrate his longtime friend.

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"Were it not for God’s goodness, greatness we would have never known the Queen of Soul. We would have never known the joy that she brought to us," Wonder said. "The reason that we are here today is because of love — because of how much we love this woman."

Bill Clinton described himself and Hillary Clinton as "Aretha groupies" first and foremost.

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Clinton talked about how hard Franklin worked as a singer.

"Yes she had the voice of a generation, maybe the voice of a century. Yes she was born into a musical culture," the former president said. "But, she also worked for years, I mean years."

Clinton also spoke of how Franklin's biggest strength was overcoming her difficulties.

"Because she lived with courage. Not without fear, but overcoming her fears," he said. "She lived with faith. Not without failure, but overcoming her failures."

Clinton finished his speech by holding up his phone to the microphone and playing her hit "Think."

Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson spoke about how he'd been close to Franklin for almost 60 years, and had visited her shortly before her death.

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But he said the most important message was not just that people came out to support Franklin in her death, but that people needed to vote for change.

"There was long lines at the museum for Rosa Parks, long lines for Aretha, long lines today. We have long lines to celebrate death, and short lines for voting," Jackson said.

He added: "If you leave today and didn’t register to vote, you have dishonored Aretha."

Holder told the crowd: "It’s hard to imagine that magnificent voice has been stilled."

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He spoke of how despite Franklin's wealth and fame, she always cared about the poor and those in need.

"She was that rare queen that never lost the common touch," he said.

Record executive and producer Clive Davis spoke about what it was like to work with Franklin for three decades. "We were committed to show all the budding musicians how long a career can last," he said.

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"For Aretha was indeed a true genius of American music," Davis said. "Every time I was with her, professionally or personally, I was conscious she was and would always be a significant part of history."

He noted that while he'd met with many political and business leaders in his life, "Aretha is in her own special category."

"Aretha's voice will be heard, Aretha's voice will be impacting, Aretha's voice will be influencing others literally for centuries to come," Davis said.

The producer pointed out how hard Franklin practiced her art and that it would "be a rarity" if she did more than two takes during a recording.

He also noted how keen Franklin was to be involved in social justice issues affecting black people, with him quoting her saying: "I have the money. I get it from black people. And I want to use it in ways that will always help our people."

"I will deeply miss my great friend, the ultimate natural woman," he declared.

Sharpton called Franklin "the soundtrack of the civil rights movement" in his speech.

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"She was a feminist before feminism was popular," Sharpton said. "She was a civil rights activist when it wasn’t popular. She gave us pride and she gave us a regal bar to reach."

Gesturing to the religious and political leaders around him, he added that "we don’t all agree on everything but we all agree on Aretha."

"She was a black woman in a white man's world," he added.

Sharpton also spoke about respect, saying, "Now I want you to all help President Trump to teach him what it means."

Many in the crowd gave him a standing ovation in response.

"And I say that because when word went out that Miss Franklin passed, he said 'she used to work for me,'" Sharpton said, referring to Trump's comments made after her death.

"No she used to perform for you, she worked for us," Sharpton added. "Aretha never took orders from nobody but God."

Actor Cicely Tyson, wearing a dominating black hat, paid tribute to her friend's ability to share herself through her music.

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"Aretha was the sum total of her life experience. And she shared that with us through the soul songs she sung," said Tyson.

"She spoke to us through her soul and everything she experienced. And that's why, no matter what she was singing, she moved every single person," she added.

Filmmaker Tyler Perry said his mother had always played Franklin's music in the car when he was growing up.

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"I could tell what my father had done by what the music was," said Perry, noting that his father was in trouble if "Respect" or "Think" were played, but must have done something right if "Dr Feelgood" was playing.

Franklin's gold-plated casket has been on public display for the last three days at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

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It was wheeled into the church early Friday morning.

The gold casket sat at the front of the stage throughout the ceremony, surrounded by huge displays of pale lavender roses.

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Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan also announced during the funeral that Chene Park, a 5000-seat amphitheater overlooking the Detroit River, will be renamed Aretha Franklin Park.

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Guests arrived to the funeral in 130 pink Cadillacs.

A lot of pink Cadillacs rolls in at Greater Grace Temple… #ArethaFranklinFuneral #arethafranklin #detroit #rip

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"We goin' ridin' on the freeway of love/In my pink Cadillac," Franklin sang on "Freeway of Love," one of her biggest hits.

And the Clintons both stopped to greet and take photos with 2018's biggest couple, Grande and Pete Davidson.

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The bishop leading the service, Bishop Charles H. Ellis III, pointed out Congresswoman Maxine Waters in the audience for special praise. "We got your back!" he declared to Waters, who stood up and gave the Black Panther 'Wakanda Forever' sign.


Waters spoke to media upon her arrival at the church on Friday, calling Franklin "a woman who showed us that you could start from very humble beginnings and become a superstar."

And from one queen to another, the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace on Friday morning played a version of Franklin's classic "Respect."

At Changing of Guard at Buckingham Palace this morning, Respect paid to Aretha Franklin.

Watch the whole ceremony here.