Praised by presidents and pop stars, eulogized by a dozen preachers and feted with a fleet of pink Cadillacs, Aretha Franklin was celebrated on Friday as a musical titan, an empowering feminist and an American icon during a marathon goodbye that showcased a generation of talent that drew inspiration from her.
Ms. Franklin, who died of pancreatic cancer two weeks ago, at 76, was the “Queen of Soul,” one of the unimpeachable stars of American music. And her funeral, at a megachurch on the outskirts of Detroit, was suitably regal, with tributes that stretched on for eight hours by Bill Clinton, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, the basketball star Isiah Thomas and others.
Presidents pay homage to the ‘Queen of Soul’
Political debates were part of her life
Hillary Clinton was seated in another section. Also in attendance were Omarosa Manigault Newman, the former Trump aide, and Whoopi Goldberg.
In his remarks, Mr. Clinton described himself as a lifelong Aretha Franklin fan — he and Mrs. Clinton, he said, were “almost groupies” — who admired how hard she worked.
“The secret to her greatness is that she took this massive talent, out of this perfect culture that made her, and she became the composer of her own song,” he said.
Earlier, Mr. Sharpton discussed how Ms. Franklin’s artistry was connected to her politics. “Aretha Franklin was not only an unparalleled artist, she was a civil rights activist and freedom fighter,” he said. “We don’t all agree on everything, but we agree on Aretha.” He added, “She was the soundtrack of the civil rights movement.”
“Trump said she worked for him,” he continued. “No, she performed for you — she worked for us. Aretha never took orders from nobody but God.”
Mr. Sharpton also read from Mr. Obama’s letter: “Aretha’s work reflected the very best of the American story.” Barbara Sampson, a friend of Ms. Franklin’s, later read from Mr. Bush’s letter.