Aretha Franklin fans are saying their final goodbyes to the Queen of Soul.The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit is hosting two days of public open-casket visitations. Franklin died at age 76 of pancreatic cancer on Aug. 16. On Tuesday, the first of the two days, hundreds of people, some of whom spent the night on the sidewalk to save their spots in line, showed up to pay their respects, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Franklin’s body was dressed in a red suit and crimson pumps in a gold-plated casket. Gold thread spelled out “Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul” in the casket’s lining.
“It was very moving,” Detroit resident Charlotte Smith told the Detroit Free Press. “She has a beautiful smile. … She looks serene resting as a true queen.”
“She’s the Queen,” Melissa Howard, who traveled from Austin for the event, said to the outlet. “She’s royalty. She’s worth it.” “She meant so much to so many people,” Frances Billingslea of Detroit said to the Detroit Free Press. “She’s a local talent. She was a down-home spirit. She didn’t put herself above anybody even though she was the Queen of Soul. She did so much for this community.”
Ron Isley, Chaka Khan, Yolanda Adams and Jennifer Holliday are among those who plan on attending Franklin’s ceremony, which will also include several performances from the renowned singers.
Gospel stars Marvin Sapp, the Clark Sisters and Vanessa Bell Armstrong will also be part of the program — as well as Audrey DuBois Harris and Alice McAllister Tillman.
The service, which will be held in Detroit on Aug. 31, is expected to reflect Franklin’s gospel roots and honor her dedication to the civil rights movement. As a teenager, Franklin briefly went on a countrywide tour with Martin Luther King Jr.
“I asked my dad if it would be OK if I went [on the tour with King],” Franklin recalled to The Washington Post in a 2009 interview. “He said if that’s what I wanted to do, he thought it would be OK, so I went out for a number of dates with Dr. King. Harry Belafonte came out and of course, Andrew Young was there and Jesse [Jackson] came in and out.”
The pair grew close. Like the rest of the nation, Franklin was devastated by King’s 1968 assasination in Memphis, Tenn. To honor her mentor and civil rights icon, Franklin volunteered to sing at his funeral. Now, five decades later, musicians are paying tribute to Franklin.
Here’s a look at some other famous faces that are expected in the crowd at Greater Grace Temple on Aug. 31, and their special relationships with the late singer.