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Tributes pour in for Queen of Soul

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‘She knew she was blessed’: Robinson

DETROIT, Aug 18, (Agencies): The funeral of legendary singer Aretha Franklin will be held in her hometown Detroit on Aug 31, after a two-day public viewing at a city museum to allow fans to mourn, her publicist said Friday.

Plans for the final farewell to the “Queen of Soul” – who died on Thursday at age 76 after a battle with pancreatic cancer – started coming together as tributes poured in from around the world, and fans congregated at key sites in the city, the home of Motown.

The funeral at Greater Grace Temple – which seats about 4,000 people – will be limited to family, friends and invited guests, expected to range from music royalty to dignitaries from around the world.

On Aug 28 and 29, fans will be able to say a final farewell at a public viewing staged at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The visitation will last 12 hours each day, according to Franklin’s publicist Gwendolyn Quinn.

Franklin is to buried with other members of her family at Woodlawn Cemetery.

The days-long celebration of Franklin’s life is also expected to include a tribute concert, but details of that event were not immediately available.

Franklin – an 18-time Grammy winner with a clear, rich voice able to span musical genres – influenced generations of singers with unforgettable hits including “Respect” (1967), “Natural Woman” (1968) and “I Say a Little Prayer” (1968).  On Friday, fans continued to pay their respects, leaving mementos outside her father’s New Bethel Baptist Church and queuing outside the Motown Museum, which will play her music on loudspeakers through the weekend and is 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 honored.”

At the Motown Museum, Fred Zilian, a university teacher from Rhode Island on a reunion with classmates from the US military academy West Point, danced with his wife to an Aretha track.

“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.”

“Every time she sang, we were all graced with a glimpse of the divine,” the Obamas said.

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.”


LOS ANGELES: When Motown great Smokey Robinson saw his lifelong friend Aretha Franklin play music for the first time, he said he was struck by the talent of the young girl who would become the “Queen of Soul”.

In an interview with Reuters TV, the former lead singer of hit group The Miracles recalled that first meeting 70 years ago with Franklin, who died on Thursday at age 76.

Franklin and her family moved to Detroit from Buffalo, New York. Robinson, now 78, described how he and a friend visited their home on the city’s Boston Boulevard that same day.

“We were walking to the house, and I heard music coming from – a piano being played and a little voice singing from this room, and I peeked in and there was Aretha sitting at the piano, playing and singing,” he said. “She was probably 5 or 6 years old, singing and playing almost like she did as an adult.”

Robinson’s admiration for her only grew over the decades.

“You know she had that voice and she was the original and she could sing anything,” Robinson said. “They called her ‘the Queen of Soul’, but Aretha could sing anything you put in front of her: opera, soul, gospel, jazz, whatever it was.”