Stevie Wonder Closes Aretha Funeral With Moving Performance

Pablo Martinez Monsivais  AP FILE

Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP FILE

Former US president Bill Clinton extolled her gifts, courage and compassion, sharing his memory of her final public performance, in November 2017, when she was already ill but performed with gusto. "We have long lines to celebrate death and short lines for voting. God bless you, Aretha, we love you". She was consoled (and possibly insulted, though some would just say good-naturedly razzed) by Ellis, who said he heard her name and wondered if that was a new item on the menu at Taco Bell. It will be marked by a different discipline, another kind of order, taking a different path home with eulogies from former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

"Dear Grandma, I love you".

Franklin's open casket was placed at the front of the church as mourners streamed by in advance of the service. Stevie Wonder rounded out the celebration by playing the harmonica and offering words, followed by a performance of "I'll Be Loving You Always".

Pop star Ariana Grande powered through Franklin's 1968 hit "Natural Woman", while Jennifer Hudson stirred congregants with an impassioned delivery of "Amazing Grace". "The greatest gift that has been given in life itself is love".

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Jackson said "Aretha's not lost, we know where she is".

Massive crowds lined up outside the church, hoping for the chance to pay their respects and take their seats among the star-studded funeral-goers that included Franklin's fellow musicians, famous actors, athletes, religious leaders and a former US President. Franklin sang for Nelson Mandela in Detroit after he was released from prison.

Jackson said Franklin's father, C.L. Franklin, was a hero before nightly television shows and the internet. "We don't have queens and kings in America, so she is our queen". Her hits like "Respect", "Chain of Fools" and "Think", impacted the music industry for generations to come. Throughout her career, she won 18 Grammy Awards and was nominated 44 times.

For African American women in particular, she was a role model and a benchmark for success, feminism and empowerment.

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Franklin was dressed in a baby blue dress on Wednesday and a rose gold gown for a viewing Thursday at the Detroit church where her father was the longtime pastor.

"Long lines at the funerals of icons and short lines for voting", the Rev. Jesse Jackson said in remembrance, noting that 2016 Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who was also in attendance, lost MI by 11,000 votes.

She sang at three presidential inaugural events: inauguration concerts for President Jimmy Carter in 1977 and President Bill Clinton in 1993.

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