Aretha Franklin laid to rest as Bill Clinton leads tributes to Queen of Soul

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The Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin’s life was celebrated during a powerful memorial service which saw tributes from three former US presidents and some of the biggest names in music.

Mourners heard of Franklin’s impact on music as well as her work as a prominent figure in the civil rights movement, a role that saw her funding groups as well as performing at rallies and benefit concerts.

Bill and Hillary Clinton
Bill and Hillary Clinton attended the funeral service (Paul Sancya/AP)

The singer performed at his inauguration in 1993 and he described himself and his wife, the former US secretary of state and presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, as groupies of Franklin.

He said Franklin lived “not without fear, but overcoming her fears. She lived with faith, not without failure, but overcoming her failures. She lived with power, not without weaknesses but overcoming her weaknesses.

“The secret of her greatness was she took this massive talent and this perfect culture that raised her and decided to be the composer of her own life song. What a song it turned out to be.”

Reverend Al Sharpton
Civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton read a tribute from Barack Obama (Paul Sancya/AP)

He finished his tribute by playing Franklin’s song Think from his mobile phone and into the microphone.

Two other former presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, did not attend the ceremony but their tributes were read out to mourners.

In a statement read by civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton, Mr Obama said the singer was “truly one of a kind” and her music “captured some of our deepest human desires, namely affection and respect”.

Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande was among the performers to sing at Aretha Franklin’s funeral (Paul Sancya/AP)

Rev Sharpton said she was the “soundtrack” of the movement as well as a “feminist before feminism” and a “civil rights leader before it was acceptable to stand up”.

Among those to perform during the ceremony was Ariana Grande, who was invited to perform after impressing Franklin’s family with her tribute on Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show in the wake of the singer’s death on August 16.

As Mr Clinton sat behind her smiling, Grande, 25, sang a powerful version of Franklin’s 1967 hit (You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman.

Robinson and Faith Hill also performed.

Faith Hill
Faith Hill also performed (Paul Sancya/AP)

“I love you grandma and I’m going to make you proud.”

Franklin’s body arrived several hours before the service was due to begin and mourners paid their final respects during an open coffin viewing.

The Queen of Soul’s final outfit was a sparkling full-length gold dress with sequined heels – the fourth outfit she had been dressed in during a week of events in the run up to her funeral.

Franklin’s coffin has been carried this week by a 1940 Cadillac LaSalle hearse that also took her father, revered minister C.L. Franklin, and civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks, to their final resting places at Woodlawn Cemetery, where the singer will also be laid to rest.

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