Aretha Franklin hailed as civil rights hero at funeral

Aretha Franklin poses on the red carpet before the 38th Annual Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, DC in 2015. Picture: Molly Riley
Aretha Franklin poses on the red carpet before the 38th Annual Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, DC in 2015. Picture: Molly Riley
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Aretha Franklin was hailed as a civil rights hero as celebrities and dignitaries gathered to pay tribute to the Queen of Soul.

Mourners including Bill Clinton, Whoopi Goldberg and Stevie Wonder arrived at Franklin’s funeral at the Detroit’s Greater Grace Temple on Friday, while hundreds of fans lined the streets outside.

Ariana Grande performs during the funeral service for Aretha Franklin at Greater Grace Temple. Picture: AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Ariana Grande performs during the funeral service for Aretha Franklin at Greater Grace Temple. Picture: AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Among those to speak was Reverend Al Sharpton, a prominent civil rights activist who said Franklin “fought for our community until the end”.

Throughout her life the acclaimed singer donated money to civil rights groups as well as performing at benefits and protest events.

Rev Sharpton said she was the “soundtrack of the civil rights movement”, before adding: “She fought the good fight. Now it’s time to crown the queen.”

He criticised US president Donald Trump, who after Franklin’s death reportedly said “she worked for me”.

The reverend received a standing ovation for demanding Mr Trump show respect, a reference to Franklin’s song of the same name, before saying the singer “performed for you, she worked for God”.

Rev Sharpton finished by reading out a tribute from former US president Barack Obama, who called Franklin “one of a kind”.

Earlier, singer Ariana Grande performed a musical tribute to Franklin, with a cover of her song (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.

Franklin’s body arrived several hours before the service began and mourners paid their respects to the Queen of Soul during an open casket viewing.

She was dressed in a sparkling full-length gold dress with sequined heels for her final outfit.

It is the fourth outfit she has worn during a week of events leading up to her funeral.

Opening the ceremony, Bishop Charles H Ellis III joked that many of the funeral programmes would end up on eBay.

He warned mourners to expect a lengthy service, adding: “We want to take the necessary time to honour this great woman of God.”

Earlier in the day Franklin was honoured at Buckingham Palace. The Welsh Guards Band performed a rendition of her song, Respect, during the changing of the guard ceremony.

The Army tweeted that it wanted to pay tribute to a “musical icon and inspiration”.

Franklin died on on August 16 aged 76.