Sat, Sep 01, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Detroit says a last farewell to Aretha Franklin

AFP, DETROIT, Michigan

From left, Aretha Franklin’s grandchildren Jordan, Victorie and Gracie Franklin speak to the attendees during A People’s Tribute to the Queen at Chene Park in Detroit, Michigan, on Thursday.

Photo: EPA

Detroit prepared to bid a final goodbye to US music icon Aretha Franklin at her funeral yesterday, where political dignitaries and music royalty were expected to join her family in celebrating her life.

The 76-year-old singer, beloved by millions around the world, died of cancer on Aug. 16, closing the curtain on a glittering six-decade career that made her one of the US’ most celebrated artists.

Former US president Bill Clinton and Smokey Robinson were among those due to address her six-hour, invitation-only funeral at the Greater Grace Temple, while Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande were to lead musical tributes.

The service was for family and friends only, meaning that members of the public would have to watch online or on a giant screen that had reportedly been erected near the church.

The formal part of the service was to begin at 10am (10pm Taipei time) in her Michigan hometown.

Franklin won 18 Grammy awards and was feted for her civil rights work, raising money for the cause and uplifting activists with her anthems.

She influenced generations of female singers from the late Whitney Houston to Beyonce, with unforgettable hits including Respect (1967), Natural Woman (1968) and I Say a Little Prayer (1968).

“I think it’s going to be a very upbeat service. I think it’s going to be a very jubilant service,” Bishop Charles Ellis, the officiating pastor, said this week.

The daughter of a prominent Baptist preacher and civil rights activist, Franklin sang at the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr, as well as the inaugurations of Clinton and former US president Barack Obama.

She was awarded the US’ highest civilian honor by then-US president George W. Bush in 2005. Letters from Bush and Obama were expected to be read at the funeral.

After the service, she was expected to make her final journey in the same ivory 1940 Cadillac LaSalle that transported the body of her father in 1984, and that of civil rights icon Rosa Parks in 2005.

More than 100 pink Cadillacs — a nod to her 1985 hit Freeway of Love — would reportedly line up outside the church.

She is to be buried in Woodland Cemetery alongside her father and siblings.

The funeral comes after more than 40 artists yesterday performed at a free concert, billed A People’s Tribute to the Queen.

Thousands of joyful fans packed into a water-front arena in Detroit, listening to guest singers powering through some of her greatest hits.

Her signature song, a feminist anthem, became a rallying cry as African-Americans rose up nationwide in the 1960s to fight peacefully for racial equality.

Her grandchildren spoke briefly, delivering thanks on behalf of their family.

“It’s truly inspiring to see how many hearts, how many people my grandma has touched,” Victorie Franklin said.

The evening was a chance for Detroit to celebrate the life of a figure regarded as local royalty.

The concert followed three days of public viewings of her open, golden casket that drew thousands, at her father’s New Bethel Baptist Church, and the Charles H. Wright Museum for African-American History.

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