Funeral Fit For A Queen : THE “Queen Of Soul”

Dozens of pink Cadillacs thronged the street in a procession leading to Detroit’s Greater Grace Temple Church — the first sign that Aretha Franklin’s funeral service would be one fit for a Queen of Soul.

Franklin, who died on Aug. 16 at the age of 76 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, is being honored Friday morning with an invitation-only service for family and friends, capping a week-long celebration of the late soul singer’s life in her hometown. Some open seats inside the church were made available to the public shortly before the service started.

There is a music-festival-worthy roster of performers set to sing at Friday’s funeral service, including Steve Wonder, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Chaka Khan, Ron Isley and Faith Hill.

Among the speakers delivering remarks are former President Clinton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, filmmaker Tyler Perry, and Motown legend Smokey Robinson. The eulogy will be delivered by the pastor of Salem Baptist Church in Atlanta, the Rev. Jasper Williams Jr.

The gold-plated casket carrying Franklin arrived at the church at 7:45 a.m. EST, with the processional set to begin at 10 a.m. EST. The service was expected to run at least five hours.

Then there are the diva flourishes. Those pink Cadillacs are an homage to the vehicle at the center of the lyrics and video for Franklin’s ’80s hit “Freeway of Love. The procession was organized by Crisette Ellis — the wife of the Greater Grace Temple pastor, Bishop Charles H. Ellis III — who told NPR that 130 such Caddies were expected to participate.

Greater Grace Temple had a deep connection for Franklin: the “Natural Woman” crooner sang at the 2005 funeral for civil rights icon Rosa Parks. In a nod to that link, Franklin’s casket was ferried to the church in the same hearse that brought Parks there 13 years earlier.

After the funeral service ends, Franklin will be buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, where several family members, including her father, Rev. C. L. Franklin, are interred.

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