NEW YORK – Aretha Franklin was celebrated in style on Friday in a soulful and star-studded send-off lasting more than eight hours.
Motown legends and musical newcomers alike appeared at the ceremony at the 4000-seat Greater Grace Temple in Franklin’s hometown of Detroit.
Gospel and soul tunes brought mourners to their feet, with Stevie Wonder, Faith Hill, Chaka Khan and Gladys Knight among those who took to the stage to perform in honour of the “Queen of Soul” to the crowded church.
Singer Ariana Grande sang a rendition of one of Franklin’s biggest hits, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”
Former US president Bill Clinton declared himself an Aretha Franklin “groupie” and spoke of how the 18-time Grammy winner’s music stood the test of time, and had transitioned from vinyl to cellphones.
He held up his own cell phone to play a snippet of Franklin’s famous tune “Think” to the packed church, declaring “It’s the key to freedom!”
Those who spoke of the queen of soul praised her as a soul music legend, but also as a feminist icon and key figure in the fight for black civil rights.
Her body was brought to the service in a Cadillac LaSalle from 1940 – the same car that took her father and civil rights leader Rosa Parks to their final resting places.
More than 100 pink Cadillacs were parked outside the church to honour the singer, who sang about driving in one of the pink cars on the “Freeway of Love.”
Franklin was dressed in a gold glittery dress and gold Christian Louboutin shoes, in her third outfit in the week of mourning in her hometown of Detroit.
The funeral marks the end of a week of celebrations of the life of the “Queen of Soul,” known for classics such as “Respect” and “I Say a Little Prayer.”
Franklin will be entombed at the city’s Woodlawn Cemetery along with her father, three siblings and a nephew.
Franklin will be buried in a 24-carat gold-plated casket made of solid bronze, the Detroit Free Press reported.
It is the same style of custom-made casket that Michael Jackson and James Brown were buried in.