Remembering Aretha Franklin: her funeral service

Posted: 03/09/2018

The Queen of Soul, whose career spanned a staggering six decades including the Otis Redding cover of Respect, I Say A Little Prayer, and One Step Ahead, died earlier in August aged 76 after having battled with cancer. Her funeral took place on 31st August at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, involving innumerable start-studded appearances from family, friends as well as famous fans who had all come together to give an emotional farewell to Aretha Franklin. As a funeral plan provider, we understand the importance of a farewell done properly for loved ones, so we decided to take a look at the most memorable moments during her funeral service.


The attendees


Performers included the singer Jennifer Hudson, who performed Amazing Grace in honour of Aretha.

There were thousands of people who came to the Detriot church to pay their respects to the incomparable singer. This included some of the most prolific artists in soul and Motown, such as Stevie Wonder. He talked about his own experience of the surprise of having Franklin sing a song ‘Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)’ he wrote when he was just 15-years old “But she did. And better than I could have ever,” he said. He also spoke of having a conversation with Franklin about releasing another song together before she died, adding that “I look forward to that time, if I’m so blessed, to be with her again.” He also sang ‘As’ from his seminal album ‘Songs’ in the Key of Life’ released in 1976, in honour of the deceased singer.


Other stars who took to the stage to pay their respects at Aretha Frankin’s funeral included the pop princess Ariana Grande, who performed a powerful rendition of one of the Queen of Soul’s most timeless songs ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’ to a packed out audience, and was accompanied by the house band at Greater Grace Temple.


Alongside these amazing performances by celebrity attendees, other stars who were present include (prepare yourself for a long list!) include Chaka Khan, Smokey Robinson, Whoopi Goldberg, Jennifer Hudson, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton and Martha Reeves.


Tributes to Aretha

Not only were there beautiful, highly emotional performances by some of the greatest artists of our time at Franklin’s service, but there were many tributes read out too, including by former presidents.



Former president and First Lady Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton at Aretha Franklin’s funeral service in Detroit.

Bill Clinton was acting as a representative of former presidents at Franklin’s funeral in Detroit, with both George W.Bush and Barack Obama both sending moving letters in memory to the singer that were read out at the service by Barbara Sampson and Rev.Al Sharpton respectively. The two presidents had remained in Washington due to having been asked to speak the memorial service for Senator. John McCain that weekend, who had recently passed away.

Clinton and Frankin’s relationship stretches back to at least 1993 when she performed at his very first inauguration. At the ceremony in Detroit, Clinton spoke of her fondly.

“She lived with courage… Not without fear, but overcoming her fears. 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.”

Obama’s letter, read out by Sampson, was an evocative tribute to the Queen of Soul:


Obama paid a moving tribute to Franklin in his letter.

‘Aretha’s work reflected the very best of our American story – in all of its hope and heart, its boldness and its unmistakable beauty. In the example she set, both as an artist and a citizen, Aretha embodied those most revered virtues of forgiveness and reconciliation, while the music she made captured some of our deepest human desires: namely affection and respect. ‘

Whilst George W.Bush’s letter commended her astonishing legacy ‘Aretha was a woman of achievement, with a deep character and a loving heart. She made important and lasting contributions to American music, with her Gospel-inspired style and distinctive voice. Her remarkable talent helped shape our nation’s cultural and artistic heritage.’

Other tributes also poured in from other legendary acts in Motown, such as Smokey Robinson, a long-time friend of the star: “I’m going to miss our talks, we used to talk for hours about anything we wanted, or nothing at all…You will be a featured voice in the choir of Angels.”