Fans mourn Aretha Franklin at gospel-infused public viewing
The regal presence Aretha Franklin exuded in life was captured at her viewing yesterday, with the late Queen of Soul in a gold-plated casket dressed completely in red, including high-heeled pumps, proving, as one person put it, that she was a "diva to the end".
As Franklin's powerful vocals from classic gospel performances were piped through the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer looked as if she was preparing for one more performance. She wore earrings, red lipstick and red nail polish, and her hair was cut short. Her dress - with its ornamental elements and sheer netting fabric - was reminiscent of an outfit she would wear onstage and "something she would have selected for herself," her niece, Sabrina Owens, told The Associated Press.
Mourners poured into the museum to pay their final respects to Franklin, who died on August 16 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 76. The two-day viewing was part of a week of commemorations for the legend, who will be laid to rest on Friday.
The Wright Museum is a cultural landmark in Detroit, where Franklin grew up and spent most of her life. Museum board member Kelly Major Green said the goal was to create a dignified and respectful environment akin to a church, the place where Franklin got her start.
"What we wanted to do is be reflective of the Queen," Green said. "It's beautiful. She's beautiful."
Green said Franklin's attire and pose communicated both power and comfort, as she did in life. The shoes, in particular, show "The Queen of Soul is diva to the end," Green said.
Fans strolled by the casket, some in tears; one woman blew a kiss to Franklin, who was surrounded by massive arrangements of roses of different hues.