Sun | Feb 16, 2020

Epic send-off for the Queen of Soul

Published:Sunday | September 2, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Faith Hill performs during the funeral for Aretha Franklin.
Former President Bill Clinton and wife Hillary Clinton talk during the funeral service for Aretha Franklin at Greater Grace Temple on Friday.
Smokey Robinson speaking about his friendship with Aretha Franklin during her funeral.
Ariana Grande performing.

Former president and preachers joined a parade of pop stars on Friday in a singing, hip-swaying, piano-pounding farewell to Aretha Franklin, remembering the Queen of Soul as a powerful force for musical and political change and a steadfast friend.

In a send-off both grand and personal, an all-star line up of mourners filled the same Detroit church that hosted Rosa Parks' funeral and offered prayers, songs, and dozens of tributes. Guests included former President Bill Clinton, former first lady Hillary Clinton, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Smokey Robinson.

Robinson, the Motown great, remembered first hearing Franklin play piano when he was just eight and remained close to her for the rest of her life, talking for hours at a time.

"You're so special," he said, before crooning a few lines from his song Really Gonna Miss You, with the line "really gonna be different without you."

Bill Clinton, described himself as an Aretha Franklin "groupie," saying that he had loved her since college. He traced her life's journey and praised her as someone who "lived with courage, not without fear, but overcoming her fears".

The hours-long service at Greater Grace Temple encompassed many elements, emotions, and regal entrances that were hallmarks of Franklin's more than six decades on sacred and secular stages. She was remembered as the pride of Detroit and as a citizen of the world.

Ariana Grande sang one of the Queen's biggest hits (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, and Faith Hill performed What a Friend We Have In Jesus. The Aretha Franklin Orchestra performed a medley featuring I Say a Little Prayer, Angel, and other songs she was known for, along with such gospel numbers as I Love the Lord and Walk in the Light.