Former U.S. president Bill Clinton, his wife, Hillary Clinton, Reverend Jesse Jackson, and a host of musicians are gathered in Detroit to remember singer Aretha Franklin, a giant in the world of American music.
The ceremony at the Greater Grace Temple assumed epic proportions, with a program of speakers and music scheduled to last more than five hours.
Franklin, who died of pancreatic cancer at age 76, has been dressed in four outfits as her body in state for public viewing over several days. While the week has been filled with tribute concerts and other high-profile celebrations of the singer and her remarkable life, funeral organizers say Friday’s funeral will be a religious service, not entertainment.
Bishop Charles Ellis the third, pastor of Greater Grace Temple, told the Associated Press before the service: “It is my goal and my aim to ensure that people leave here with some kind of spiritual awakening. …This is not a concert, this is not a show, this is not an awards production. This is a real life that has been lived.”
Franklin’s final days have been treated as a royal goodbye. She is to be buried in a bronze casket plated with 24-karat gold. Franklin’s name and the title “Queen of Soul” are embroidered into the champagne-colored velvet lining the interior.
Franklin’s body was brought to the church in a white hearse that carried the body of her father, minister C.L. Franklin, in 1991 and civil rights leader Rosa Parks in 2005; and like them, she will be buried in Detroit’s Woodlawn Cemetery.