Aretha Franklin funeral ‘won’t be a concert or a show,’ warns bishop

Farewell to the Queen of Soul: Gold casket of Aretha Franklin arrives at church as Detroit prepares star-studded five HOUR funeral with Bill Clinton, Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande all taking part

  • Detroit Bishop Charles Ellis insisted her funeral will be a service rather than show
  • All week there have been public viewings and tribute concerts ahead of funeral  
  • Queen of Soul’s final send-off will take place at Detroit’s Greater Grace Temple
  • Clinton, Rev Jackson and Smokey Robinson will speak before Stevie Wonder, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia and Faith Hill perform 
  • The funeral will take place at 10am Eastern Time 7am Pacific Time 3pm GMT 

Aretha Franklin was carried down a red carpet in to Detroit’s Greater Grace Temple on Friday morning in a gold plated casket, wearing a gold, full length dress ahead of her star-studded funeral.

The Queen of Soul was brought to the church in a white Cadillac LaSalle hearse that once carried civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks, and also her father legendary minister CL Franklin. 

The hearse will pick her up again to take her body to Woodlawn Cemetery, where Parks and her father were also buried.  

As crowds gathered outside the church to say their goodbyes, six men were seen carrying Franklin out of the 1940s hearse and into the church, while another two stood behind them.

Aretha Franklin arrived at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit on Friday morning in the 1940s hearse which transported her body to the viewing earlier this week

Franklin’s coffin was taken down a red carpet ahead of her star-studded, five hour funeral

Cameras and onlookers were seen crowding around the red carpet as the Queen of Soul was taken into the church

The pallbearers were seen wheeling the coffin down what would be Franklin’s last ever red carpet, as guests began to arrive at her service, which is expected to be up to five hours long.

Inside the coffin, Aretha is dressed in a full-length golden dress, with sequined heels – her fourth outfit since her first day of viewing.

Franklin’s funeral has been largely dictated by the Queen of Soul herself, with many performers claiming she had chosen which song they would perform.

She has chosen The Rev. Jasper Williams Jr., pastor emeritus of Salem Bible Church in Atlanta, to eulogize her.

Ariana Grande arrived at the church with boyfriend Pete Davidson ahead of her performance at the service


Omarosa Manigault-Newman is seen arriving at the Greater Grace Temple 

Boxer Tommy Hearns arrived with friends ahead of the service


Bill and Hillary Clinton arrived, the former president stopped at the car while his wife slipped into the church

Organizers of the service insist today’s service will be a ‘spiritual awakening’ and not a ‘concert, show or awards production’.

Former president Bill Clinton, Rev Jesse Jackson and Smokey Robinson will all speak at the Queen of Soul’s final send-off. 

Franklin and Clinton are old friends, and she sang at both his inaugurations. 

When the former President arrived, he was seen fumbling with papers, including what appeared to be his speech and an order of service, as Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton slipped into the church.

There’ll be performances by Stevie Wonder, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia, Faith Hill, Shirley Caesar, Chaka Khan and more. 

But Bishop Charles Ellis III, of Detroit’s Greater Grace, said the funeral will be a respectful service clear of all the pomp and ceremony seen over the past week.

The streets outside the church is lined with pink Cadillacs, a nod to Franklin’s funky ’80s tune, ‘Freeway of Love,’ which prominently featured the car in the lyrics and video


Cadillac took out a full page ad in the paper in the same shade of pink as the cars used in Franklin’s music video

Say the name: The walls of the church where Franklin first learned to sing gospel were decorated with balloons spelling ot her name and posters 

Jesse Jackson was one of the first to arrive at the invite-only service in Detroit

All hail the ‘Queen’: Mourners left balloons shaped like stars beneath a sign on the walls of the church spelling out ‘Queen’ on Day 3 of Franklin’s public viewing 

‘It is my goal and my aim to ensure that people leave here with some kind of spiritual awakening,’ 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.’


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The invitation-only funeral at Detroit’s Greater Grace Temple caps off a week of high-profile public viewings and tribute concerts. 

Bishop Ellis said the service ‘may well exceed five hours’. The street outside Greater Grace will be lined with pink Cadillacs – a nod to Franklin’s funky ’80s tune, ‘Freeway of Love,’ which prominently featured the car in the lyrics and video.

Gospel artist Marvin Sapp, who is scheduled to perform, said: ‘Of course, some get-down and lift-up need not be mutually exclusive. 

‘I really believe that this… is going to be an eye-opening experience for everybody in the world watching.’

‘We really celebrate because we really recognize 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.’

Sapp wouldn’t reveal what he will perform Friday, but said every song is one picked out by Franklin. Robinson also didn’t share what he will say, but that’s 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. 

More than 40 artists took the stage at ‘A People’s Tribute to the Queen’ concert in Detroit, Michigan Thursday night 

Jazz Singer Dee Dee Bridgewater performs at the concert belting out in honor of the Queen of Soul 

Free tickets were snapped up within minutes of being made available online at the 5,000-seat amphitheater  

In style: Aretha Franklin was transported to New Bethel Baptist Church in a vintage LaSalle, dressed in a sparkling rose gold floor-length gown accentuated with pink beaded lace and paired with gold-sequined Christian Louboutin heels

All that glitters: Pallbearers carry the polished-bronze casket of legendary singer Aretha Franklin into New Bethel Baptist Church Thursday in Detroit

He said they ‘talked all the time,’ the last 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 can find uplift – and 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.

Sabrina Owens, Franklin’s niece, said she started putting thoughts to paper about events earlier this year as her aunt’s health failed. 

Since Franklin’s August 16 death at 76, Owens said a close group she described as ‘Aretha’s angels’ have ‘worked tirelessly’ and have been guided by a single question: ‘What would Aretha want?’

‘After all she gave to the world, I felt we needed to give her an appropriate send-off that would match her legacy,’ Owens said. 

Attendants stand by to open the doors as the casket carrying Franklin arrives at the New Bethel Baptist Church 

Man-made garden: A man works on a growing makeshift memorial for Franklin outside the New Bethel Baptist Church

Franklin reposed in her rose gold gown in the polished bronze casket, pictured being carried into the church

Members of the Nation of Islam pass out copies of The Final Call newspaper to fans of Aretha Franklin waiting outside of the church

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