Aretha Franklin: Stars and fans say goodbye at emotional, seven-hour funeral

Aretha Franklin Stars and fans say goodbye at emotional seven-hour funeral

Musicians, family, friends and fans have said a final goodbye to Aretha Franklin at her funeral in Detroit.

Lasting over seven hours, the memorial was both mournful and celebratory, with the crowd breaking into a spontaneous dance of praise at one point.

Focusing on Franklin’s gospel roots, the service featured music from Ariana Grande and Chaka Khan, with Stevie Wonder delivering an emotional finale.

Aretha Franklin died earlier this month of pancreatic cancer at the age of 76.

Her final send-off involved 100 pink Cadillacs, a gold-plated coffin, three presidential tributes and eulogies by more than a dozen preachers.

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They remembered her not just as the Queen of Soul, but as an aunt, grandmother, friend, civil rights activist and icon of black womanhood.

“The reason that we are here today is because of love. Because of how much we love this woman,” said Stevie Wonder, who led the congregation in a rendition of his song As, which carries the refrain: “I’ll be loving you always”.

“One of my longest friends has gone home,” added Motown star Smokey Robinson, who grew up with Franklin in Detroit.

“You’re going to be one of the future voices in the choir of angels,” he added, before breaking into an a capella rendition of his ballad Really Gonna Miss You.

“Aretha will be influencing others literally for centuries to come,” said record label boss Clive Davis, who praised her “once-in-a-lifetime voice”.

Pop star Ariana Grande sang one of Franklin’s signature songs (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman but elsewhere, the service was like a Who’s Who of gospel with powerful and uplifting performances from The Williams Brothers, Vanessa Bell Armstrong and The Clark Sisters.

Jennifer Hudson’s stirring rendition of Amazing Grace; and Gladys Knight’s version of You’ll Never Walk Alone, in particular, drew mourners to their feet, with others raising their arms in praise.

Franklin’s son Edward also sang Marvin Gaye’s Mercy, Mercy Me; while her niece Cristal remembered the aunt who “taught me bad shopping habits” and “chartered a bus so our family could go to President Obama’s inauguration”.

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