Franklin’s fu­neral billed as a spir­i­tual ser­vice, with stars

Ripon Bulletin - - Local -

DETROIT (AP) — Or­ga­niz­ers of Aretha Franklin’s fu­neral in­sist it will be a ser­vice, not a show. Yet the Queen of Soul’s fi­nal send-off on Fri­day cer­tainly will en­com­pass many el­e­ments, emo­tions and grand en­trances that were hall­marks of her more than six decades on sa­cred and sec­u­lar stages.

And it boasts a lineup of speak­ers and singers that would ri­val any of the hottest re­vues, past or present.

To be sure, the in­vi­ta­tion-only fu­neral at Detroit’s Greater Grace Tem­ple, which caps off a week of events that in­cluded high-pro­file pub­lic view­ings and trib­ute con­certs, comes with all-star speak­ers and per­form­ers: Among those of­fer­ing words will be former Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, the Rev. Jesse Jack­son and Smokey Robin­son. Songs will be pro­vided by Steve Won­der, Ari­ana Grande, Jen­nifer Hud­son, Fan­ta­sia, Faith Hill, Shirley Cae­sar, Chaka Khan and more.

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. Her cas­ket has been car­ried this week by a 1940 Cadil­lac LaSalle hearse that also took Franklin’s fa­ther, leg­endary min­is­ter C.L. Franklin, and civil rights pi­o­neer Rosa Parks to their fi­nal rest­ing places at Wood­lawn Ceme­tery, where the singer will join them.

Bishop Charles El­lis III of Greater Grace knows well of the bold­face guest-list and sur­round­ing pomp and cir­cum­stance, but he has a higher mis­sion in mind for the ser­vice that may well ex­ceed five hours.

“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, she still could not es­cape death. And hope­fully, a lot of peo­ple here with money and fame and in­flu­ence and friends and no­to­ri­ety and wealth, hope­fully they will think of their mor­tal­ity and say there is some­thing big­ger than fame, there is some­thing big­ger than Hol­ly­wood, some­thing big­ger than be­ing a record­ing artist and selling gold albums or what have you.”

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,” said gospel artist Marvin Sapp, also among the sched­uled per­form­ers. “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, told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “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. 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.”

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