Aretha Franklin’s Celebration of Life
By Grace McNamara, Contributing Writer
“You know a force from heaven. You know something that God made. And Aretha is a gift from God. When it comes to expressing yourself through song, there is no one who can touch her. She is the reason why women want to sing.” –Angela Davis
Aretha Franklin’s nearly eight hour funeral was truly an event fit for a “Queen”. Held at Detroit’s Greater Grace Temple the service featured live performances by Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande, Faith Hill, Fantasia, and even her son, Edward Franklin. Franklin’s funeral was a joyous day to celebrate the late singer’s vivacious life. Political icons including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush also mourned the death of Franklin by either personally attending the service or submitting written sentiment to be read on stage. Obama notably wrote, “Aretha lifted those of millions, empowering and inspiring the vulnerable, the downtrodden, and everyone who may have just needed a little love.”
In addition to a star-studded guest list, Franklin’s funeral featured unique novelties fitting of her diva lifestyle. The legendary singer’s hearse was accompanied by more than 100 pink Cadillac’s in reference to her 1985 hit song “Freeway of Love”. Franklin’s multiple outfit changes were also quite notable.
Throughout the week, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit offered fans the opportunity to pay their respects via an open-casket Livestreaming of Franklin. Franklin dressed in a completely new outfit for each day of this event. For the final service, she dressed in a stunning gold floor length dress with sequined heels to match.
In the 76 years Franklin graced this world, she boasted a long list of accomplishments including, but not limited to, being awarded 20 Grammys, the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and crowned the best singer of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine. Franklin was widely renowned for her powerful voice, but the ability to sing did not define her. Throughout her life, Franklin advocated for both civil rights and women’s rights. She donated great amounts of money, often covering payroll for protest groups, and sang at benefits and protests, drawing in large donations and raising widespread awareness. Franklin’s hit songs “Respect” and “Natural Woman” both gained national attention in times of tumult and, eventually, became anthems of these movements.
Closing the service, in much deserved memoriam, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced his intent to rename Chene Park, a large and beautiful amphitheater known as Detroit’s “jewel”, after Franklin. Both performers and fans for years to come will know they are standing in the home of the legendary “Queen of Soul” when arriving at Aretha Franklin Park.