Aretha Franklin: A fitting goodbye to the Queen of Soul

Aretha Franklin: A fitting goodbye to the Queen of Soul
Aretha Franklin: A fitting goodbye to the Queen of Soul

With music.

Among the stunning and powerful performances was her dear friend Stevie Wonder offering comfort with his song.

Among the powerful speeches, her friend and civil rights leader the Reverend Jesse Jackson offered comfort with his words.

"Aretha was our Queen, she belongs and belonged to us," he said.

"She was blessed to have the powerful gift of singing, perhaps the most remarkable voice, and most unique, the world has ever heard."

Stevie Wonder closed the tributes to Aretha Franklin
Image: Stevie Wonder closed the tributes to Aretha Franklin

Her funeral service which lasted more than seven hours felt much like a celebration.

The people who attended were testament to what mattered to Aretha Franklin - and to how many lives she touched - from family to a former president and of course the many, many fans who'd queued overnight in the hope of getting a spot at the service.

Those who didn't get into the Greater Grace Temple near Detroit watched the service on a big screen in a petrol station forecourt.

Fans watched the service on a screen
Image: Some watched the service on a big screen in a petrol station forecourt

And boy, did they turn this unlikely setting into a party: singing and dancing to the performances, applauding and cheering to the moving tributes.

The forecourt fell silent as former president Bill Clinton began to speak.

"She lived with courage, not without fear but overcoming her fears," he said.

"She lived with faith, not without failure but overcoming her failures. She lived with power, not without weakness but overcoming her weaknesses. I just loved her."

Bill Clinton described himself as a groupie for Aretha Franklin
Image: Bill Clinton described himself as a groupie for Aretha Franklin

That's the feeling shared by everyone here. They loved her.

While Aretha Franklin performed before presidents, she never forgot her roots.

You don't need to be in Detroit long before someone reminds you that Aretha was one of them.

There are two recurring things people want to talk about here.

She never left Detroit - "she never forgot us" one fan says - and her generosity.

How Aretha cared about the city that raised her, how she fed the homeless, helped people in need, and would often do it anonymously.

Rev Jesse Jackson at the Greater Grace Temple where he paid tribute to Aretha
Image: Rev Jesse Jackson at the Greater Grace Temple where he paid tribute to Aretha

"She had a food bank and she provided money for it," says fan Ryan Williams. "Poor people used to come, and nobody even knew about it."

It's clear many of those dancing at the gas station have very little but there's little complaint.

They're here to celebrate Aretha: a woman who put Detroit on the map, a woman who set the bar for African Americans, a woman who demanded respect and won it the world over, whose music was a call to arms for women and civil rights.

Fans of Aretha Franklin lined up outside Greater Grace Temple hoping to get a seat inside
Image: Fans of Aretha Franklin lined up outside Greater Grace Temple hoping to get a seat inside

"She was a black woman in a white man's world," Reverend Al Sharpton said in his address at her service

"She bared her cross, she fought a good fight. Now is the time to crown the Queen."

One of Detroit's teenagers, an aspiring actor, tells me: "I want to be big. If Aretha can do it, I can do it too."

More from Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin sang and she inspired - and that is the gift she leaves to the world.

And on this petrol station forecourt, Detroit has shown us how to throw a fitting goodbye to the Queen of Soul.

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