WASHINGTON — Fans of Aretha Franklin lined up outside Greater Grace Temple in Detroit on Friday morning, hoping to join the politicians, actors, singers, musicians and civil rights activists gathered inside to bid farewell to the Queen of Soul.
The homegoing service was supposed to be closed to the public but the family reportedly decided to allow up to 2,000 fans into the 4,000-seat sanctuary. Some fans reportedly had been waiting outside for as long as 24 hours. Pink Cadillacs delivered family and friends to the temple and were lined up outside, as a tribute to one of Franklin’s popular song, “Freeway of Love.” Anyone who arrived in a pink Cadillac could reportedly gain attendance. A jumbotron screen is set up outside the temple for those who aren’t lucky enough to gain entrance. As the service was getting underway just before 11 a.m. EDT, several empty rows were spotted.
Former President Bill Clinton and his wife, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, are in attendance. Franklin sang at both of his inaugurations and he will speak at the service. Rev. Jesse Jackson also will address the audience, as will Rev. Al Sharpton, who will read a letter from former President Barack Obama. Other clergy there include Rev. T.D. Jakes and Louis Farrakhan. Former U.S. Attorney Eric Holder, actor Cicely Tyson, director Tyler Perry and singer Smokey Robinson — a childhood friend of Franklin’s — also came to say goodbye.
Among the 20 or so singers scheduled to perform are Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Faith Hill, Jennifer Hudson Ariana Grande and Fantasia.
Franklin was dressed in different outfits for each of the four days of her services. For her final costume change, she was dressed in a long sparkled gold dress and gold sequined high heels. Her 24-carat gold-plated casket was surrounded by immense arrangements of lavender, pale pink and ivory roses.
Franklin died of pancreatic cancer at age 76 on Aug. 16 at her Detroit home. Although she was born in Memphis, Franklin adopted Detroit as her hometown decades ago. She loved Detroit, and Detroit loved her.