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By Nick Carey
DETROIT (Reuters)

A Detroit church swelled with the sound of gospel music on Friday as family, friends and fans of Aretha Franklin bid rousing farewell to the Queen of Soul at a funeral that featured tributes by former U.S. President Bill Clinton and singer Stevie Wonder

“Come on, this is a church service, lift your voice!” Bishop Charles Ellis III, the officiant, exhorted the congregation at the Greater Grace Temple, as the choir and orchestra swayed behind him.

 

News: Aretha Franklin Funeral
Aug 31, 2018; Detroit, MI, USA; Artist Demont Pinder carries a painting he made of Aretha Franklin inside Greater Grace Temple where people pay their final respects to Aretha Franklin in Detroit, on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018. Mandatory Credit: Kimberly P. Mitchell/Detroit Free Press via USA TODAY NETWORK

 

The crowd grew louder, its ranks bolstered by the powerful voices of Gladys Knight, Jennifer Hudson, Chaka Khan, Shirley Caesar and Ariana Grande, who came to pay musical tribute to Franklin following her death on Aug. 16 at age 76.

Before the golden casket was closed at the top of a service, Franklin’s body could be seen dressed in gold sequins. More than eight music-filled hours later, Stevie Wonder took to the stage to close out the ceremony with a performance of his song “As,” the crowd joining him in its refrain: “I’ll be lovin’ you always.”

 

A woman carries a magazine with the image of Aretha Franklin on it into a public viewing of the late singer at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit
A woman carries a magazine with the image of Aretha Franklin on it into a public viewing of the late singer at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., August 30, 2018. REUTERS/Lawrence Bryant

 

“She had the voice of a generation, maybe the voice of a century,” Clinton said, describing himself as a Franklin “groupie” long before he became president. Ending his remarks, Clinton held the microphone to his smartphone and played Franklin’s 1968 hit “Think” over the church’s speakers.

Civil rights leaders Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton were onstage to honour Franklin’s contributions to black empowerment, sharing front-row seats with Louis Farrakhan, the black nationalist and Nation of Islam leader.

 

The casket carrying the late singer Aretha Franklin arrives at the Greater Grace Temple for her funeral service in Detroit
The casket carrying the late singer Aretha Franklin arrives at the Greater Grace Temple for her funeral service in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., August 31, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

 

Sharpton took to the pulpit to laud Franklin for providing the soundtrack of the movement, with songs such as her signature 1967 hit “Respect.”

 

 

“She was a black woman in a white man’s world,” Sharpton said, as mourners cheered. “She was rooted in the black church, she was bathed in the black church, and she took the black church downtown and made folks that didn’t know what the Holy Ghost was shout in the middle of a concert.”

 

The casket carrying the late singer Aretha Franklin arrives at the Greater Grace Temple for her funeral service in Detroit
The casket carrying the late singer Aretha Franklin arrives at the Greater Grace Temple for her funeral service in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., August 31, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

 

Franklin was recalled as both an American institution, who sang at the presidential inaugurations of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and as an aunt and grandmother, who took her young relatives shopping or to see Disney on Ice shows.

“Nothing sounded better to me than the way my grandma sings,” Victorie Franklin said.

 

The casket carrying the late singer Aretha Franklin arrives at the Greater Grace Temple for her funeral service in Detroit
The casket carrying the late singer Aretha Franklin arrives at the Greater Grace Temple for her funeral service in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., August 31, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

 

Smokey Robinson, the Motown singer and a long-time friend, crooned a few lines of his song “Really Gonna Miss You.” Ariana Grande belted out “Natural Woman” while Gladys Knight took on “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

An ensemble performance of “Precious Lord” so moved the congregation that the officiant told the orchestra to keep vamping as clergy danced on the stage, expanding a programme that by then was already running two hours behind schedule.

 

Fantasia Barrino Taylor at the funeral service for the late singer Aretha Franklin at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit
Fantasia Barrino Taylor at the funeral service for the late singer Aretha Franklin at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., August 31, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

 

The funeral had been billed as closed to the public, but crowds of fans gathered outside, many dressed in their Sunday best. “This is as close you get to royalty here in America and Aretha earned every bit of it,” said Missy Settlers, 53, an automotive parts assembler. Some fans were admitted into the church to sit behind Franklin’s family.

Franklin, who died at her Detroit home from pancreatic cancer, began her musical career as a child singing gospel at the city’s New Bethel Baptist Church.

 

Stevie Wonder performs at the funeral service for the late singer Aretha Franklin at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit
Stevie Wonder performs at the funeral service for the late singer Aretha Franklin at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., August 31, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

 

The city has treated her death as the passing of royalty, with Franklin‘s body laying in repose in the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History for two days of public visitation earlier this week.

Her coffin is to be entombed in Detroit’s Woodlawn Cemetery near the remains of her father; her brother, Cecil Franklin; and her sisters, Carolyn and Erma Franklin.

 

(Reporting by Nick Carey in Detroit and Jonathan Allen in New York; writing by Jonathan Allen; editing by Bill Berkrot, Bill Trott, Jonathan Oatis and Cynthia Osterman)

 

Jordan Franklin, grandson of Aretha Franklin, is comforted by Victorie Franklin as he speaks at the funeral service for Aretha Franklin t the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit
Jordan Franklin, grandson of Aretha Franklin, is comforted by Victorie Franklin as he speaks at the funeral service for Aretha Franklin t the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., August 31, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

 

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton speaks at the funeral service for the late singer Aretha Franklin at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton speaks at the funeral service for the late singer Aretha Franklin at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., August 31, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

 

(Former U.S. Secretary of State and Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton attends the funeral service for Aretha Franklin at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit,
Former U.S. Secretary of State and Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton attends the funeral service for Aretha Franklin at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., August 31, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

 

 

Keep reading (more images ahead) …

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