Aretha Franklin was laid to rest Friday following a funeral in Detroit, the city she called home for most of her life.
6:45 p.m. Jennifer Holliday and the Aretha Franklin Celebration Choir performed a processional as attendees exited the Greater Grace Temple.
6:35 p.m. Stevie Wonder began his tribute with a lengthy harmonica solo, and then delivered a short address praising Franklin’s commitment to making love felt by those who listened to her music.
“We can talk about all the things that are wrong, and there are many,” Wonder said. “But the only thing that can deliver us is love. So what needs to happen today, not only in this nation but throughout the world, is that we need to make love great again. . . . That is what Aretha said throughout her life.”
Wonder proceeded to perform “As,” from his 1976 album “Songs in the Key of Life,” as attendees rose and clapped along. A few of his backup singers: Jenifer Lewis, Dottie Peoples and Angie Stone.
6:17 p.m. The Rev. Jasper Williams Jr., a pastor from Atlanta’s Salem Baptist Church, delivered a winding eulogy that briefly touched on Franklin’s life and achievements but largely devoted his time to critiquing black parenting and “black on black crime.”
“The only thing black America needs today more than anything else, he said, “is to come back home to God . . . A home is what I see black people need more than a house. A house is structural, but a home is spiritual.”
After parsing the difference between the two and somewhat criticizing single motherhood, Williams eventually closed by saying, “The queen did what she could, but it’s time now for us to do what we can.”
Gladys Knight — who, contrary to startling reports from earlier in the day, does not have pancreatic cancer — immediately followed Williams’ remarks with a performance of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
5:15 p.m. Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson described Franklin as “black without apology or excuse,” referencing her work with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton. She helped transform the existence of black America, Dyson said before condemning President Trump for disrespecting Franklin by claiming that she once worked “for” him.
“You lugubrious leech, you doppelganger of deceit and deviance, you lethal liar, you dimwitted dictator, you foolish fascist,” Dyson said. “She ain’t work for you. She worked above you. She worked beyond you. Get your preposition right!”
Then, Jennifer Hudson brought the house down with a lengthy rendition of the timeless hymn “Amazing Grace.”
4:55 p.m. Franklin also loved sports, said former Detroit Pistons star Isiah Thomas, who got to know the Queen of Soul personally after moving to her city. But he was first introduced to her through his mother, as Franklin’s music — namely, “I Say a Little Prayer” — comforted his family as they underwent financial hardship in his youth.
He fondly recalled seeing his mother sitting in the stands at Pistons games, sandwiched between Franklin and Stevie Wonder.
“I wonder if they knew how many nights they got my mom through, and how many tears she shed listening to Aretha’s music,” Thomas said. “To have my mom sitting next to Aretha in the stadium was such a powerful and inspiring moment for me. So Aretha, I thank you.”
4:33 p.m. Bishop Paul Morton and Yolanda Adams led a lively performance of “Mary Don’t You Weep,” a spiritual Franklin recorded a live version of for her 1972 album “Amazing Grace.”
4:20 p.m. Franklin’s longtime collaborator, veteran producer Clive Davis, recalled signing her to Arista records in 1979 when she already had decades of hits — including “Respect,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “Chain of Fools” — behind her.
Their work together spawned decades of more hits. “We were committed to show all the budding musicians how long a career can last,” Davis said, calling Franklin “a true genius of American music.”
“Aretha’s voice will be heard, Aretha’s voice will be impacting, Aretha’s voice will be influencing others, literally for centuries to come,” he added.
He spoke of their close friendship, calling Franklin “kind and thoughtful.” He remembered her performing, unexpectedly, in a tutu alongside members of the City Center Ballet Company the night he received a Lifetime Achievement Award in New York.
“My friend, Aretha, was going to extraordinary lengths to make sure the night would be a night always to be remembered.”
And he referenced her activism, quoting her as saying “I have the money. I get it from black people and I want to use it in ways that will always help our people.”
Davis said two years ago he had purchased the famed Andy Warhol portrait of Franklin, which covered her 1986 album “Aretha,” and that it would remind him of “the irreplaceable” artist he had worked with for so long.
But, he added, “there is, and there will always be a huge void.”
“I will deeply miss that once-in-a-lifetime voice,” he said. “I will miss her hearty laugh, those endless curiosity questions, that thirst and wonderful hunger for life.”
3:58 p.m. Fantasia gave a powerhouse performance — taking a moment at the start to slip out of her high-heels — of Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” done gospel-style. Then Tyler Perry delivered his remarks, recalling a phone call from Aretha Franklin, who told him she was a fan of his character Madea. He reciprocated the feeling, of course: “I’m grateful to God that we had the fortune to be on this planet at the same time as Aretha Franklin,” Perry said.
The 93-year-old actress Cicely Tyson, wearing the church hat to end all church hats, then read a version of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “When Malindy Sings,” subbing Aretha for Malindy.
3:53 p.m. “When Aretha sang, the holy ghost came,” said the Rev. William J. Barber II, pastor at Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C. He further likened Franklin to the divine throughout his remarks, proclaiming that when she performed, “the sacred and the secular came together in a way that could only be ordered by the lord.”
“Some say that even as the world spins, there is a certain tune to the world’s orbit,” he continued. “Aretha tapped into that tune and taught us its rhythm.”
3:45 p.m. “This is a celebration, but not a party,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson began as he took the podium to reflect on his and Franklin’s friendship, which spanned more than sixty years.
Jackson said Franklin had “perhaps the most remarkable and unique voice the world has ever heard,” and spoke about her civil rights legacy, recalling how she and Harry Belafonte once staged an 11-city benefit concert to raise money for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. At one concert, Jackson recalled tear gas being placed into fans, prompting a building evacuation. Franklin “kept right on singing,” Jackson said. “She sang for Carter, Mandela, Clinton, Obama.”
“She was baptized in singing, struggle and service,” he said.
At one point, Jackson lamented “we have long lines to celebrate death and short lines for voting.” Later, he told the crowd that “if you leave here today and don’t register to vote, you’ll dishonor Aretha.”
Jackson said he and Franklin saw each other at least once a month in the last three years, and that “it was a hard goodbye.”
He ended with “Sleep on Aretha, see you in the morning.”
3:23 p.m. Chaka Khan performed a rousing rendition of the gospel song “Goin’ Up Yonder,” which Ron Isley followed with “His Eye Is On the Sparrow.”
2:50 p.m. In the early 2000s, Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) received a surprise phone call from Franklin after becoming the mayor of Southfield, Mich. Franklin asked if Lawrence would attend an upcoming event, to which the mayor responded, “No, excuse me, ma’am, you mean Aretha Franklin, like the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin?”
Lawrence learned firsthand how supportive Franklin was of other women: “She called me, the little black girl from the east side of Detroit, to say she was proud of me,” Lawrence reflected. She is part of a group of lawmakers, including Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), who introduced legislation to award Franklin posthumously with a Congressional Gold Medal, one of the highest civilian honors.
“I am so proud to have known and to have shared my life with the amazing queen,” Lawrence said. “The queen deserves this gold medal and I’m honored to give it to her.”
2:38 p.m. Greg Mathis, the retired judge behind the eponymous courtroom series “Judge Mathis,” said he had discussed concerns about the Flint water crisis in his last conversation with Franklin. Mathis told Franklin he was hesitant to publicly criticize the local government’s handling of the situation, that detractors had chided him to “stay on television.”
“She said ‘what are you scared?” Mathis recalled Franklin saying. “You’re supposed to be from Detroit. What are you scared of?”
Mathis said her last words to him evoked her iconic song, “Respect.”
“She said ‘yeah Greg, you’ll go back up there and you’ll sock it to ’em!”
“In honor of my sister, I’m going to Flint and I’m going to sock it to ‘em, sock it to ’em, sock it to ’em,” Mathis said.
2:30 p.m. Gospel veteran Shirley Caesar was joined by rising gospel star Tasha Cobbs Leonard as she performed “How I Got Over,” a lively hymn Franklin featured on her 1972 album “Amazing Grace.”
2:18 p.m. Former president Bill Clinton began his almost 15-minute tribute to Franklin by reminiscing about the early days of his and Hillary Clinton’s fandom: “We started out not as a president and first lady, a senator and secretary of state,” he said. “We started out, like, Aretha groupies.”
The couple got to know Franklin personally during Clinton’s presidency, well enough that he convinced her to perform in the Rose Garden during a visit from the emperor and empress of Japan. The secret to Franklin’s greatness, he said, was that she combined her talent with the culture that raised her and became “the composer of her own life’s song.”
“This woman got us all here in these seats today, right?” he continued. “She lived with courage, not without fear but overcoming her fears. She lived with faith, not without failure but overcoming her failures. She lived with power, not without weakness but overcoming her weaknesses.”
Franklin sang “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Misérables” at Clinton’s presidential inauguration in 1993. The next year, at 52, she became the youngest person up until that point to be selected for the Kennedy Center Honors and attended a reception at the White House.
“You could say that Hillary and I went to college and law school with Aretha,” Clinton said at the time, “because there was scarcely a day when we didn’t listen to one of her songs.”
Clinton ended his remarks by holding his cellphone, playing Franklin’s “Think,” up to the microphone.
1:54 p.m.: Former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. said Franklin “has always been a part of my life,” and recalled the singer’s surprise 2015 performance of “America, the Beautiful” at a ceremony unveiling his official portrait.
“Her family shared her with Detroit, Detroit shared her with America, this nation shared her with the world, but she was always ours,” Holder said. “Our princess and, ultimately. our queen.’
Holder also spoke of Franklin’s enduring activism. “The issues that mattered to her were the same of the people proud of her and who she never forgot. She was that rare queen who never lost the common touch,” he said.
Referencing Franklin’s 2015 performance at the Kennedy Center Honors, Holder said “she could drop her fur coat on the stage of the Kennedy Center, in front of those with great power and great wealth, and continue to care about the plight of poor, unfairly treated people in forgotten parts of this country.”
“She was a part of the movement that set this nation free,” Holder said, noting that “Respect,” the Otis Redding song that became one of Franklin’s defining hits, “became one of the anthems for another movement that made women more equal.”
Before leaving the podium, Holder paraphrased his favorite Franklin song — “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do).”
“Though she won’t call anymore and we’ll sit in wait in vain, our love is true and it’s all for you, Aretha Franklin,” Holder said. “Rest in peace, my queen.”
1:27 p.m. Franklin’s son Edward sang Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me.” He and his mother performed several duets together before her death, and he received a standing ovation after performing “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” reportedly one of his mother’s favorite gospel songs, at his grandfather Rev. C.L. Franklin’s funeral in 2015.
1:20 p.m. By the time Cristal Robin-Aretha Franklin was born, her aunt was already the Queen of Soul. But to Cristal, as she said in her remarks, Aretha was “just my aunt, my father’s sister. And I was her namesake.”
“My aunt Robin never let Aretha forget that her name came first, but Aretha would laugh and say they saved the best for last,” Cristal recalled.
1:15 p.m.: Victorie Franklin, spoke of wanting to follow in her famous grandmother’s footsteps.
“Her voice made you feel something, you felt every word, every note, every emotion in the songs she sang. Her voice brought peace,” she said. “And watching her on stage from a young age to the last performance I saw her at, I knew that performing was something I was born to do.”
1:12 p.m. Bishop Charles H. Ellis III called attention to a group of attendees — cast members of what he said was Franklin’s “most favorite television show,” Tyler Perry’s OWN drama, “The Haves and the Have Nots.”
1:05 p.m. Everyone was taken to church as the Williams Brothers and Vanessa Bell Armstrong gave one of the most powerful gospel tributes of the day.
“This is church, and in church, we do what church folk do,” Bishop Charles H. Ellis III said. “Come on, take Ms. Franklin to church!”
Many of those on stage and in the pews danced in their seats and the aisles, as the choir continued.
“If Ms. Franklin can dance on the stage, somebody ought to be able to dance in the church,” Ellis continued, later adding, “We’re here to lift up this family. Put a smile on their face.”
12:54 p.m.: Former president George W. Bush, who honored Franklin in 2005 with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, also sent a letter on behalf of himself and his wife, Laura.
“Aretha was a woman of achievement with a deep character and a loving heart,” Bush said. “She made important and lasting contributions to American music with her gospel-inspired style and distinctive voice. Her remarkable talent helped shape our nation’s artistic and cultural heritage.”
12:50 p.m. Smokey Robinson shared the memory of when he first met Franklin. He was a child playing outside in Detroit with friends, and overheard her singing. “That was my first meeting, my first sight of you. From that moment on, almost, we have been so so close.”
“I didn’t know, especially, this soon that I would have to be say goodbye to you,” Robinson said. “We talked about it many times how we were the two left out of all of our neighborhood friends. The longest ones” left, he said.
Robinson then said “I know you’re up there and you’re celebrating with your family, and all our neighborhood friends who have gone, and you’re going to be one of the featured voices in the choir of angels, because you’d have to be.”
Before he stepped away, he sang a cappella “I’m Really Gonna Miss You,” followed by the Clark Sisters singing “Is My Living In Vain.”
12:42 p.m. Former president Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, did not attend the funeral. But, in a letter read by Sharpton, the couple praised the late singer and expressed their “heartfelt sympathies to all of those who gathered in Detroit.”
“From a young age, Aretha Franklin rocked the world of anyone who had the pleasure of hearing her voice,” Obama wrote. “Whether bringing people together through thrilling intersections of genres or advancing important causes through the power of song, Aretha’s work reflected the very best of the American story in all of its hope and heart, it’s boldness and its unmistakable beauty,” the letter continued.
He called the singer “one of a kind” and said she “lifted those of millions empowering and inspiring the vulnerable, the downtrodden and everyone who may have just needed a little love.”
12:40 p.m. The Rev. Al Sharpton said Franklin, whom he referred to as “a black woman in a white man’s world,” wouldn’t want to be celebrated without mention of what she stood for. So he began his remarks by detailing her history as a civil rights activist and freedom fighter.
“She gave us pride and a regal bar to reach,” he said. “And that’s why we’re all here. We don’t all agree on everything, but we agree on Aretha.”
Sharpton also mentioned that many listeners corrected him after he misspelled “respect” while discussing Franklin on his radio show this past Sunday. Now, he wants to “correct President Trump and teach him what it means.”
“Trump said, ‘She used to work for me,’” Sharpton explained. “No, she used to perform for you. She worked for us.”
12:26 p.m. After Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) offered remarks, Ariana Grande performed “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”
Bishop Charles H. Ellis III of Greater Grace Temple then asked those assembled to applaud for the young singer. “When I saw ‘Ariana Grande’ on the program, I thought it was a new something at the Taco Bell,” he said. “Girl, let me give you all your respect.”
Last week, Grande belted the iconic tune as a tribute to Franklin on “The Tonight Show.” She told host Jimmy Fallon that night of the time when she received a surprise phone call from the iconic singer, who asked if Grande would check out a relative’s music samples.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’d be honored to listen. Thank you for thinking of me. Text me the MP3 or something,’” Grande recalled. “She was like, ‘Well, I don’t know how to do that so I’m going to send it to you.’ Four months later, I got a package with a CD.”
12:16 p.m. Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones announced that a portion of the city’s Madison Avenue would be renamed Aretha Franklin Way: “Her contributions to the world will live on,” Jones added.
12:10 p.m. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan just announced that on Tuesday, he will send a bill to the city council to rename Chene Park, “one of her favorite places in the world,” as the Aretha Franklin Park. “Generations to come,” he said, “will be reminded that they are performing at the home of the Queen of Soul.”
His remarks followed Faith Hill’s rendition of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Several prominent pastors and bishops began the service by reading scripture and sharing memories.
“Ubiquitous in gifting, showing everywhere, from the palaces in England singing for the queen, to popping up in the back seat of a car in the middle of a commercial, Aretha was everywhere,” said Bishop T.D. Jakes. “She was classy enough to sing on the most prominent stages in the world, but she was homegirl enough to make potato salad and fry some chicken. In a class, all by herself.”
Mourners — including former president Bill Clinton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Smokey Robinson and Clive Davis — gathered this morning at the Greater Grace Temple for the funeral of Aretha Franklin, who died earlier this month of pancreatic cancer at 76.
“It took a little time to get in here, but I believe the Queen wouldn’t have had it any other way,” Bishop Charles H. Ellis III of Greater Grace Temple told those assembled.
Many of the biggest names in music, including countless gospel stars, are scheduled to perform; songs will be offered by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson.
Several famous associates, including Robinson and Davis, will share personal reflections. former president Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have sent a letter that will be read by Rev. Al Sharpton.
Clinton, who is also speaking, entered the sanctuary with Hillary Clinton, greeted by warm applause. Others in attendance include Whoopi Goldberg, Grande’s fiance, comedian Pete Davidson, Calif. Rep. Maxine Waters (D). Several other noted musicians also sent floral arrangements, including Diana Ross, Elton John and Barbra Streisand, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Before the arrival of the family and casket bearing Franklin, several songs from the Queen of Soul’s vast catalogue played in the sanctuary, including “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” and “I Say a Little Prayer for You.” As the choir sang a rousing rendition of the gospel song “Marvelous,” mourners sprang to their feet and sang along.
Just before 11 a.m., the family entered the Greater Grace Temple, as legendary gospel musician Richard Smallwood played the piano.
The iconic singer received nearly every major award one could receive during her lifetime. That included being the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as well as receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Kennedy Center Honors, the National Medal of Arts and 18 Grammys.
Franklin was transported to the service by the same 1940 Cadillac LaSalle that carried including Rosa Parks and Franklin’s father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin.
Friday’s funeral follows several days of tributes, including a Thursday evening concert and a public viewing at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.
Franklin had been dressed in four different outfits throughout the week, according to the Associated Press. She will be laid to rest wearing a full-length gold dress with sequined heels.