The Funeral of Aretha Franklin

Laghima Pandey

Aretha Franklin, the self-taught piano prodigy, vocalist and songwriter who first conquered the charts in the late ’60s and became known as the “Queen of Soul,” died on August 16 after her long battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 76 years old. She was laid to rest on Friday, August 31st, following a funeral in Detroit, the city she called home for most of her life. The 10 a.m. service, originally set to conclude at 3 p.m., ran more than two and a half hours behind schedule and was broadcast on TV and streamed live online. Thousands of people packed the Detroit church to pay respects to Aretha Franklin.

The speakers at Friday’s invitation-only funeral at Detroit’s Greater Grace Temple included former President Bill Clinton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Smokey Robinson. Singers included Stevie Wonder, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Faith Hill and Chaka Khan. Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush didn’t attend Aretha Franklin’s funeral, but they sent messages to honor the Queen of Soul. Obama, in a statement read by the Rev. Al Sharpton praised Franklin for reflecting ” the very best of the American story.” Her music, he said, “captured some of our deepest human desires, namely affection and respect.” Bush’s statement, read by Franklin’s friend Barbara Sampson, called her “a woman of achievement with a deep character and a loving heart” who made “lasting contributions to American music with her gospel-inspired style and distinctive voice.”

The 25-year-old pop star Ariana Grande performed a reserved version of the diva’s classic “ (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” She received enthusiastic accompaniment from the house band at the Temple. The Voice coach Jennifer Hudson also gave an electrifying performance of “Amazing Grace”.

Stevie Wonder lifted Aretha Franklin’s family, friends and fans emotions as he played a religious hymn during the last performance at her funeral.The “Isn’t She Lovely” singer, took to the stage just before the recessional to perform an instrumental version of “The Lord’s Prayer” on harmonica to pay tribute to the Queen of Soul during her star-studded memorial service at the Greater Grace Temple.