The star-studded celebration began at 10 a.m./EDT Thursday and went late into the afternoon, ending some nine hours later. The funeral was held at Greater Grace Temple, a 4,000-member church in Detroit, Aretha’s hometown, where she died on August 16th from pancreatic cancer at the age of 76.
Cable television stations broadcast almost all or parts of the service, switching back and forth between the joyful service for Aretha Franklin to the more somber ceremony honoring U.S. Senator John McCain, whose body was lying state in the Capitol Rotunda. McCain, who died August 25 of brain cancer, will be buried Sunday at the United States Naval Academy, where graduated in 1958. He was 81.
Aretha’s funeral drew politicians, civil rights leaders, entertainers and regular people.
Television cameras panned the audience, showing Ariana Grande slipping by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A camera showed a bearded Tyler Perry, with a reflective expression. It was hard to tell, but Perry appeared to be sitting not too far from a smiling Whoopi Goldberg. Other celebrities included Isiah Thomas, Jesse Jackson Jr. , Michael Eric Dyson, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.
Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, Shirley Caesar, and Ron Isley performed. They were all backed by an orchestra.
Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, President Bill Clinton shared the stage with Judge Greg Mathis, Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. and Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. Minister Farrakhan sat two seats away from Clinton.
The minister also stood, walked back and forth on the stage and clapped his hands to show his appreciation for the other speakers and singers, but when news reports covered who was on the stage, it was as if Minister Farrakhan suddenly moved to Argentina and became one of the disappeared.
Rev. Sharpton criticized President Donald Trump who said when Franklin died ‘she used to work for me.’ Sharpton corrected the Trump. “She performed for you, but she worked for us.”
Dyson was meaner towards President Trump, calling him a “lugubrious leach.” Dyson added that Aretha did not work for him, she worked above him.
Rev. Jasper Williams, Jr., pastor of Salem Baptist Church in Atlanta, told the audience in a spirited delivery that Aretha bailed Angela Davis out of jail, angering her father Rev. C.L. Franklin who thought Davis was a communist.
Aretha told her father that Davis was a black woman who needed help, and she could help her, said Rev. Williams who delivered the eulogy for the Rev. C.L. Franklin.
Rev. Jackson told the audience that Aretha donated money to Dr. Martin Luther King to keep the movement alive.
Rev. Williams used the ceremony to talk about the number of blacks who kill other blacks. “When a white cop shoots to death a black person, we hold demonstrations, but we don’t do anything when a black shoots and kills another black person,” he said. “Black lives won’t matter until we stop killing ourselves.”
Aretha was buried in Detroit’s Woodland Cemetery, wearing her white fur and holding her gold microphone.