Tributes poured in across the world to “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin yesterday as her family and hometown made arrangements for her funeral and a celebration of her extraordinary career.
The 76-year-old music legend, who died on Thursday, influenced generations of singers with unforgettable hits including Respect (1967), Natural Woman (1968), and I Say a Little Prayer (1968).
The 18-time Grammy award winner cemented her place in music history with a powerful, bell-clear voice that stretched over four octaves, her generations of hits spanning from soul and R&B, to gospel and pop.
Yesterday fans continued to pay tribute to the celebrated singer, leaving mementos outside her father’s New Bethel Baptist Church and queuing outside the Motown Museum, which is playing her music on loudspeakers through the weekend and hosting a book of condolence.
“It’s just been amazing. Of course we’re all very saddened and heartbroken with the thought of her passing, but people are flocking to the museum,” general manager Sheila Spencer told AFP. “She performed at our gala for our 20th anniversary and it was a phenomenal, phenomenal performance. So we’re just so honoured.”
Some Detroit media reported that Franklin’s family and the city were drawing up arrangements for a four-day celebration of her life, during which her body would lie in repose for two days, open to the public.
Her funeral will be held at Greater Grace Temple, a spokeswoman for the church confirmed to AFP, with the date and final arrangements still being worked out.
“It’s difficult to conceive of a world without her. Not only was she a uniquely brilliant singer, but her commitment to civil rights made an indelible impact on the world,” tweeted singer Barbra Streisand.
“I’m sitting in prayer for the wonderful golden spirit Aretha Franklin,” said Motown legend Diana Ross, while former Beatle Paul McCartney called her “the Queen of our souls”.
Franklin passed away on Thursday morning surrounded by her family and loved ones at her Detroit home, following a long battle with pancreatic cancer, her family announced in a statement issued by her publicist.
Fred Zilian, a university teacher from Rhode Island on a reunion with classmates from the US Army officers’ training school Westpoint danced with his wife to an Aretha track playing at the Motown Museum.
“I want to be sad because we lost Aretha Franklin, but I had to go in the street and dance,” he told AFP, remembering how he loved her music and those of black artists who recorded at Motown in the 1960s.
“The country was riven by race relations tension and we, you can see are all white, we didn’t give a damn,” he said. “It’s really a statement about the unifying effect that music can have.”
In 1987, Franklin became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In 2010, Rolling Stone magazine put her at the top of its list of the 100 greatest singers of all time, male or female.
She performed for several presidents, including at the 2009 inauguration of Barack Obama, the country’s first African-American head of state.
Obama and his wife Michelle paid heartfelt tribute to the woman who they said “helped define the American experience”.
US President Donald Trump said the singer “brought joy to millions of lives and her extraordinary legacy will thrive and inspire many generations to come”.
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