Aretha Franklin hailed as civil rights hero as celebrities gather for funeral

Franklin died earlier this month aged 76.

Aretha Franklin was hailed as a civil rights hero as celebrities and dignitaries gathered to pay tribute to the Queen of Soul.

Mourners including Bill Clinton, Whoopi Goldberg and Stevie Wonder arrived at Franklin’s funeral at the Detroit’s Greater Grace Temple on Friday, while hundreds of fans lined the streets outside.

Among those to speak was Reverend Al Sharpton, a prominent civil rights activist who said Franklin “fought for our community until the end”.

Throughout her life she donated money to civil rights groups as well as performing at benefits and protest events.

Aretha Franklin funeral
Reverend Jesse Jackson, second right, and former US president Bill Clinton, right, were among the mourners (Paul Sancya/AP)

He said she was the “soundtrack of the civil rights movement”, before adding: “She fought the good fight. Now it’s time to crown the queen.”

Sharpton criticised President Donald Trump, who after Franklin’s death reportedly said “she worked for me”.

The reverend received a standing ovation for demanding Mr Trump show respect, a reference to Franklin’s song of the same name, before saying the singer “performed for you, she worked for God”.

Sharpton finished by reading out a tribute from former US president Barack Obama, who called Franklin “one of a kind”.

Aretha Franklin
Ariana Grande performed during the funeral service for Aretha Franklin(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Earlier, the singer Ariana Grande performed a musical tribute to Franklin, with a cover of her song (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.

Franklin’s body arrived several hours before the service began and mourners paid their respects to the Queen of Soul during an open casket viewing.

Franklin was dressed in a sparkling full-length gold dress with sequined heels for her final outfit. It is the fourth outfit she has worn during a week of events leading up to her funeral.

Aretha Franklin
Flowers sit atop the casket during the funeral service for Aretha Franklin (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Opening the ceremony, Bishop Charles H Ellis III, joked that many of the funeral programmes will end up on eBay.

He warned mourners to expect a lengthy service, adding: “We want to take the necessary time to honour this great woman of God.”

Earlier in the day Franklin was honoured at Buckingham Palace. The Welsh Guards Band performed a rendition of her song, Respect, during the changing of the guard ceremony.

The Army tweeted that it wanted to pay tribute to a “musical icon and inspiration”.

Franklin died on on August 16 aged 76.

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