Aretha Franklin's body arrives for star-studded funeral service
The body of Aretha Franklin has arrived at a Detroit church for her funeral service.
A white hearse arrived at the Greater Grace Temple more than two hours before the service was due to begin, and was greeted by fans who had been lining up outside since dawn.
Franklin is dressed in a sparkling full-length gold dress with sequined heels for her final outfit.
Mourners got a glimpse of the Queen of Soul during an open casket viewing at the church prior to the start of the service. The gold dress is the fourth outfit Franklin has worn during a week of events leading up to her funeral.
The street outside the church has been filled with pink Cadillacs – a nod to Franklin’s funky 1980s tune Freeway Of Love, which prominently featured the car in the lyrics and video.
The invitation-only funeral will feature speeches by former president Bill Clinton, fellow politician Jesse Jackson and musician Smokey Robinson, as well as performances by Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande.
The service, which could last five hours, ends a week that included high-profile public viewings and tribute concerts.
Her coffin has been carried this week by a 1940 Cadillac LaSalle hearse that also took Franklin’s father, legendary minister CL Franklin, and civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks to their final resting places at Woodlawn Cemetery, where the singer will join them.
Bishop Charles Ellis III will lead the service in front of the star-studded congregation.
“It is my goal and my aim to ensure that people leave here with some kind of spiritual awakening,” Mr Ellis said.
“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, that a person regardless of how famous she became no matter how many people she touched around the world, she still could not escape death.
“And hopefully, a lot of people here with money and fame and influence and friends and notoriety and wealth, hopefully they will think of their mortality and say there is something bigger than fame, there is something bigger than Hollywood, something bigger than being a recording artist and selling gold albums or what have you.”
Gospel artist Marvin Sapp, who is among the scheduled performers, said he wanted to celebrate the life of Franklin in front of a global audience.
“I really believe that this… is going to be an eye-opening experience for everybody in the world watching,” he said.
“We really celebrate because we really recognise that those we call the dearly departed, they wouldn’t want for us to cry and be sad and sorrowful. But they would want us to celebrate their lives because they transitioned from this life to a better one.”
Mr Sapp would not reveal what he will perform on Friday but said every song is one picked out by Franklin.
Robinson also did not share what he will say, but that is for a different reason.
“I do not plan anything (with) someone I love like that,” Robinson, a Motown great who grew up with Franklin, said. “I love her. She was my longest friend.”
Robinson said he will just make it “personal,” since he remained close with Franklin until the end. He said they “talked all the time,” the last time just a couple weeks before she became too ill to speak.
“We saw all of our other close friends go,” Robinson said. “We used to talk about that — we saw a lot of soldiers go.”
Amid the sadness of these days, Robinson believes Franklin’s legacy is secure. A new generation of singers like Grande who are inspired by the late Queen of Soul is just the beginning.
“There are some girls who haven’t been born yet … who will be inspired by Aretha,” he said.