Aretha Franklin: Stevie Wonder’s tribute to Queen of Soul brings star-studded funeral to emotional finale

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STEVIE Wonder was among a host of Motown legends paying a soulful tribute to Aretha Franklin.

The Queen of Soul was transported to her final farewell in Rosa Parks’ hearse wearing a gold dress inside a gold casket to the Greater Grace Temple where family, celebrity friends and fans gathered.

Stevie Wonder dedicated his song, I'll Be Loving You Aways, to Aretha
Stevie Wonder dedicated his song, I’ll Be Loving You Aways, to Aretha

Before the golden casket was closed at the top of a service, Franklin’s body could be seen dressed in gold sequins.

More than eight music-filled hours later, Stevie Wonder took to the stage.

He wowed with his harmonica skills and then brought the remaining mourners at Franklin’s lengthy funeral to their feet with a moving version of “As”.

The choir, Aretha’s family, preachers and remaining guests swayed as Wonder played the classic tune in honour of his old friend.

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The star will be buried in a 24-karat gold plated Promethean casket made of solid bronze[/caption]

The "Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin poses for a portrait with circa 1967.
Golden era… Aretha Franklin poses for a portrait circa 1967
Michael Ochs Archives – Getty

Stevie dedicated his song, “I’ll Be Loving You Aways”, to his departed friend and musical kindred spirit whom he’d known since he was a boy.

“God bless, Aretha,” Wonder said at the end of his song.

“The joy is in knowing that she will have an eternal life of bliss.”

Before he performed, Gladys Knight sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.

As Franklin’s coffin left the church, Jennifer Holliday sang “Climbing Higher Mountains.”

Ariana Grande performs a song in tribute
New generation soul… Ariana Grande performs ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’
AP:Associated Press

Others who performed over the eight-hour ceremony included Faith Hill, Fantasia Barrino, Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande and Chaka Khan.

Smokey Robinson, the Motown singer and a long-time friend, crooned a few lines of his song “Really Gonna Miss You”.

Grande belted out “Natural Woman” while Gladys Knight soulfuly sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

Highlights of Aretha’s included:

    • About 100 pink Cadillacs lining up outside the Greater Grace Temple
    • Aretha’s body was covered in shimmering fabric and her casket was closed to shouts of “Hallelujah!” from the audience
    • Faith Hill honoured Aretha Franklin by singing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”
    • Ariana Grande sang “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”
    • Motown legend Smokey Robinson performed “Really Gonna Miss You” in honour of his lifelong friend
    • Chaka Khan sang “I’m Going Up Yonder”

    • The Rev Jesse Jackson gave an emotional tribute where he told Aretha to “sleep on” and telling her “I’ll see you in the morning”
    • Jennifer Hudson delivered a moving rendition of “Amazing Grace”
    • Stevie Wonder sung “I’ll Be Loving You Aways”and signed off with “God bless you, God Bless Aretha”
Jennifer Hudson delivering a soulful rendition of Amazing Grace
Jennifer Hudson delivered a stunning rendition of Amazing Grace
Getty Images – Getty

Rev Jesse Jackson, who worked alongside Martin Luther King during the 1960s, urged attendees to honour her memory and register to vote.

Franklin, who was herself heavily involved in campaigning against racial prejudice, died on August 16 aged 76.

Her body arrived to the star-studded memorial in a 1940 Cadillac LaSalle hearse.

She wore a shimmering gold dress, with sequined heels the fourth outfit Franklin was clothed in during a week of events leading up to her funeral. 

Jackson and his fellow human rights campaigner Al Sharpton were onstage to honour Franklin’s contributions to black empowerment, sharing front-row seats with Louis Farrakhan, the black nationalist and Nation of Islam leader.

Jesse Jackson makes a call for more people to vote in elections
Jesse Jackson said ‘Aretha’s not lost, we know where she is’

Sharpton took to the pulpit to laud Franklin for providing the soundtrack of the movement, with songs such as her signature 1967 hit “Respect”.

“She was a black woman in a white man’s world,” he said, as mourners cheered.

“She was rooted in the black church, she was bathed in the black church, and she took the black church downtown and made folks that didn’t know what the Holy Ghost was shout in the middle of a concert.”

Franklin was recalled as both an American institution, who sang at the presidential inaugurations of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Jordan Franklin, left, pauses alongside his sister Victorie Franklin while speaking about their grandmother, Aretha
Aretha’s grandson Jordan Franklin, left, pauses alongside his sister Victorie Franklin while paying tribute to their grandmother
AP:Associated Press
Chaka Khan performed 'I'm Going Up Yonder'
Chaka Khan performed ‘I’m Going Up Yonder’
Getty Images – Getty
Motown singer Smokey Robinson blows a kiss to Aretha after performing 'Really Gonna Miss You' 
Motown singer Smokey Robinson blows a kiss to Aretha after performing ‘Really Gonna Miss You’
AP:Associated Press

Former US President Bill Clinton described himself as an Aretha Franklin “groupie,” saying he had loved her since college.

He traced her life’s journey, praising her as someone who “lived with courage, not without fear, but overcoming her fears”.

He remembered attending her last public performance, at Elton John’s AIDS Foundation benefit in November in New York.

She looked “desperately ill” but managed to greet him by standing and saying, “How you doing, baby?”

Her career, Clinton noted, spanned from vinyl records to cellphones.

He held the microphone near his iPhone and played a snippet of Franklin’s classic “Think,” the audience clapping along.

“It’s the key to freedom!” Clinton said.

Bill Clinton plays Aretha Franklin music on his mobile phone while speaking at the funeral service
Bill Clinton plays Aretha Franklin music on his mobile phone while speaking at the funeral service

Epic... About 100 pink Cadillacs lined up outside to pay tribute
Think, think pink… About 100 pink Cadillacs lined up outside to pay tribute
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Moving... Faith Hill sings a moving performance of What a Friend We have in Jesus'
Moving… Faith Hill sings a moving performance of ‘What a Friend We have in Jesus’
AP:Associated Press


Actress Whoopi Goldberg was among the world-famous stars in attendance[/caption]

Chaka Khan, singer and good friend of Aretha's , arrives
Chaka Khan, singer and good friend of Aretha’s , arrives
Kindred spirit... Cicely Tyson, known for playing strong African-American women on screen and stage throughout her career, was one of the mourners
Cicely Tyson, known for playing strong African-American women on screen and stage throughout her career, was one of the mourners

AP:Associated Press

Pall bears take Aretha’s coffin in for her glorious send off[/caption]

AP:Associated Press

Louis Farrakhan, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson and former President Bill Clinton[/caption]


A fleet of 120 pink Cadillacs lined up outside the service in homage to the song ‘Freeway of Love’[/caption]

Getty Images – Getty

The superstar’s all-white funeral cortege had its own police escort[/caption]


Legendary boxer Tommy ‘The Hitman’ Hearns (R) was among the first guest to arrive[/caption]

Getty Images – Getty

The singer’s body was transported to the service in Rosa Parks’ white hearse[/caption]

Among the first to arrive were Ariana Grande and Smokey Robinson along with the Clintons and film star Whoopie Goldberg.

Bishop Charles Ellis III, the pastor at Greater Grace Temple, was waiting for the superstar’s arrival.

“This day is absolutely historic,” Ellis said. “I think each and every one of us make our mark in life, whether brief or small or significant.

“Only once in a while do you have someone like Aretha Franklin that makes a mark, an indelible person, as she has.”

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Hundreds gathered inside the church while many more were outside[/caption]

Getty – Contributor

Jennifer Hudson sang ‘Amazing Grace’ in tribute to her old pal[/caption]

AFP or licensors

Flowers from the family of singer Otis Redding are delivered to the church[/caption]

Getty Images – Getty

The Renaissance Center in Detroit displays RESPECT to celebrate the life of songstress Aretha[/caption]

Selected highlights of Aretha Franklin’s epic funeral service

Loca Detroit time ( minus five hours)

8:30 – 9:50 a.m.— Viewing — Recorded Songs by Aretha
9:30-9:50 a.m. — Musical Prelude — Aretha Franklin Orchestra
10:40-10:45 a.m.— Musical Tribute — Faith Hill
10:45 a.m. — Mike Duggan — Mayor, City of Detroit
10:55 a.m. — Governor Rick Snyder, State of Michigan
11-11:05 a.m. — Musical Tribute — Ariana Grande
11:05-11:10 a.m. — Musical Tribute — The Clark Sisters
11:40-11:45 a.m. — Family Musical Tribute — Edward Franklin
11:45-11:50 a.m. — Obituary— Sabrina Owens
12:05 p.m. — Former President, William (Bill) Jefferson Clinton
12:31 p.m. — Rev. Al Sharpton, Founder, National Action Network
12:36-12:41 p.m. — Musical Tribute — Chaka Khan
12:41-12:51 p.m. — Musical Tribute — Ron Isley
12:51 p.m. — Reverend Jesse Jackson
1:10- 1:15 p.m. — Musical Tribute — Fantasia Barrino-Taylor
1:15 p.m. — Tyler Perry
1:17 p.m. — Cicely Tyson, Actress
1:25 p.m. — Smokey Robinson, Recording Artist
1:38 p.m. — Isaiah Thomas Former NBA Player, Detroit Pistons
1:42 p.m. — Ron Moten, Personal Friend, Franchise Owner, McDonald’s Restaurants
1:53- 2 p.m. — Musical Tribute — Bishop Marvin Sapp and the Aretha Franklin Celebration Choir
2-2:05 p.m. — Sermonic Selection — Jennifer Hudson
2:35-2:45 p.m. — Musical Tribute — Stevie Wonder joined by National Artists

2:45-3 p.m. — Committal and Recessional — Jennifer Holliday and the Aretha Franklin Celebration Choir


AP:Associated Press

Aretha was as glamorous in death as in life and her memorial was a musical show she’d surely have enjoyed[/caption]

The funeral had been billed as closed to the public, but crowds of fans gathered outside, many dressed in their Sunday best.

“This is as close you get to royalty here in America and Aretha earned every bit of it,” said Missy Settlers, 53, an automotive parts assembler.

Some fans were admitted into the church to sit behind Franklin’s family.

Franklin, who died at her Detroit home from pancreatic cancer, began her musical career as a child singing gospel at the city’s New Bethel Baptist Church.


Aretha at the 2016 White House Correspondents Association Annual Dinner[/caption]

AFP or licensors

People hold up their lit mobile phones during ‘A People’s Tribute to the Queen’ concert last night[/caption]

Aretha Franklin
The music icon started singing in her Baptist church as a little girl

The street outside Greater Grace was filled with pink Cadillacs – a nod to Franklin’s funky ’80s tune, “Freeway of Love,” which prominently featured the car in the lyrics and video.

Throughout this week, thousands of loyal fans have been paying their final respects to the Queen of Soul  at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

Aretha Franklin's body will be displayed at a Detroit museum so her fans can say their final goodbyes
Aretha’s body was dressed in different dresses every day in the run up to today’s funeral
AP:Associated Press

AP:Associated Press

Aretha Franklin in her open casket presented in Christian Louboutin five-inch patent heels[/caption]

She will lie in state for two days of public viewing in Detroit
She is resting in a solid bronze Promethean casket plated in 24-carat gold

The star’s body went on display on Tuesday as part of a week of commemorations for the legend.

For the first of the public viewings, the star was dressed in ruby red Christian Louboutin heels and a matching dress with her legs crossed at the ankle as a show of strength.

On the final day, she had been changed into a sheer baby blue dress with matching shoes.

She is being laid to rest in a solid bronze Promethean casket plated in 24-carat gold. It is the same type of coffin in which singers James Brown and Michael Jackson were buried.

It has the epitaph “Aretha Franklin the Queen of Soul” embroidered into the fabric on the inside of the lid.


Her shining casket has the epitaph ‘Aretha Franklin the Queen of Soul’ embroidered into the fabric on the inside[/caption]

Hundreds of mourners have been queuing up for the public viewing
Thousands of fans queued to pay their respects to Aretha as she was lying in state
Getty Images – Getty
Aretha was transported to the museum in a 1936 white LaSalle sedan
The soul sensation was transported to her final farewell in Rosa Parks’ Cadillac hearse
AFP or licensors

Dubbed the Queen of Soul and considered one of the greatest voices ever, Aretha Louise Franklin was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on March 25, 1942.

She moved to Detroit, Michigan, by the time she was five and the music icon started soon singing in the Baptist church where her father was a minister.

Her powerful voice and soulful tone singled her out as something special from the very start.

However, she was just 12 years old when she first fell pregnant with son Clarence, his dad was school friend Donald Burk.

Then again aged 14, she had another son Edward named after his father, Edward Jordan.

Franklin’s third child, Ted White, Jr, was born in February 1964 and is known professionally as Teddy Richards and played guitar backing for his mum.

The Queen of Soul’s stellar career which spanned six decades and made her a global icon

Aretha launched a stellar music career aged 18, but it was in 1967 when she signed with Atlantic Records that her star began to soar.

The soul Queen was estimated to be worth around £47million having amassed a fortune through her dazzling music career.

Rolling Stone magazine had named her the greatest singer of all time.

Merging gospel, soul and pop, her powerful voice cemented her place in music history.

Her hits including ‘Respect’, ‘Natural Woman’, ‘I Say a Little Prayer’, ‘I Knew You Were Waiting’.’Chain of Fools’ and ‘Freeway of Love’ have become global anthems. 

However, amazingly Aretha only had one UK No1 hit single with ‘I Knew You Were Waiting’ which was a duet with Brit singer George Michael.

She had two Billboard Hot 100 number one songs – ‘I Knew You Were Waiting’ and ‘Respect’.

Aretha also won 18 Grammy Awards and even received America’s highest civilian award, The Presidential Medal Of Freedom.

Her youngest son, Kecalf Cunningham, born March 28, 1970, is the child of her road manager Ken Cunningham.

She was married twice, first to Theodore “Ted” White aged 19. The pair separated in 1969 amid claims of domestic abuse towards her.

She then wed Peyton Place actor Glynn Turman in 1978 becoming stepmother to his three children, however they divorced in 1984.

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