A spectacular concert celebrating the life and extraordinary career of Aretha Franklin brought thousands of joyful fans to their feet in Detroit Thursday, honoring the ‘Queen of Soul’ on the eve of her funeral.
More than 40 artists took to the stage at what was billed ‘A People’s Tribute to the Queen,’ powering through some of her greatest hits two weeks after her death in her Michigan hometown.
The music icon beloved by millions around the world died of cancer on August 16, closing the curtain on a glittering six-decade career that made her one of America’s most celebrated artists.
The concert spanned the R&B, Gospel, Jazz and Blues, even classical genres in which Franklin excelled. Her grandchildren spoke briefly, delivering heartfelt thanks on behalf of their family and grandmother.
More than 40 artists took the stage at ‘A People’s Tribute to the Queen’ concert in Detroit, Michigan Thursday night
Actor and filmmaker Tyler Perry, known for his Madea movies, speaks during the tribute concert
JAzz Singer Dee Dee Bridgewater performs at the concert belting out in honor of the Queen of Soul
Free tickets were snapped up within minutes of being made available online at the 5,000-seat amphitheater
A man paints a portrait of Aretha Franklin during the tribute concert for the influential musical artist
Aretha influenced generations of female singers from the late Whitney Houston to Beyonce, with unforgettable hits including ‘Respect’ (1967), ‘Natural Woman’ (1968) and ‘I Say a Little Prayer’ (1968).
‘The concert is wonderful. I mean for people that couldn’t be here you just don’t know what you’re missing,’ said Tembley Reynolds, 60, a medical records clerk from Saginaw, Michigan. ‘Everyone was great!’
Free tickets were snapped up within minutes of being made available online at the 5,000-seat, waterfront outdoor Chene Park Amphitheatre, where Franklin herself had performed.
Dancing, excitedly taking selfies and filming parts of the concert on their cellphones, the evening was a chance for Detroit to celebrate the life and legacy of a towering figure regarded as local royalty.
Performances included Franklin’s hits ‘Freeway of Love’ – an anthem to the Motor City – and ‘Say A Little Prayer,’ with an all-cast rendition of ‘Respect’ scheduled to bring the house down in finale.
Her signature song, the feminist anthem became a rallying cry as African-Americans rose up nationwide in the 1960s to fight peacefully for racial equality.
Grandchildren of Aretha Franklin Jordan, Victorie and Gracie spoke on stage during during Thursday’s concert
More than 40 artists took to the stage at the concert billed ‘A People’s Tribute to the Queen’
Singer Jennifer Lewis, also known for starring in ABC’s Blackish, performs during ‘A People’s Tribute to the Queen’
Dancers perform a piece by US choreographer Lisa McCall during the tribute concert to the Queen
Headliners included The Four Tops, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Angie Stone, while a gospel choir took everyone to church, rousing the crowd to their feet with an electric, upbeat performance of classics and a powerful rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’ by Tasha Page-Lockhart.
Tenor Rod Dixon even sang ‘Nessun Dorma’ in a tribute to Franklin’s last-minute performance of the Puccini aria when Luciano Pavarotti called in sick at the last minute at the 1998 Grammy Awards.
The concert followed three days of public viewings of her open, golden casket that drew thousands – at her father’s New Bethel Baptist Church, and the Charles H. Wright Museum for African-American History.
On Thursday, she lay resplendent in the church dressed in a rose gold outfit and matching Christian Louboutin stilettos. On Tuesday, she wore a red dress with matching heels and on Wednesday she was in blue.
‘I wanted to come here in the jubilance, the joyousness, the celebration of Aretha and her legacy,’ said Dorlena Orange, 68. ‘We’re like a party. It’s like a beautiful, wonderful thing.’
The New Bethel Baptist Church held a special place in Franklin’s heart. It was there that she hosted Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for parishioners and the needy, and also recorded an album.
US jazz singer Jean Carne was among the stars to perform in honor of the late Aretha Franklin
Christian R&B gospel artist Tasha Page-Lockhart belts a ballad to honor the 76-year-old music icon
The event was held on the water at Detroit’s Chene Park Amphitheater as Aretha’s name hung above the stage
On Friday, former president Bill Clinton and Smokey Robinson are among those due to address her six-hour, invitation-only funeral with musical tributes coming from Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande.
‘I think it’s going to be a very upbeat service. I think it’s going to be a very jubilant service,’ said Bishop Charles Ellis, pastor at the Greater Grace Temple where the funeral is being held.
Franklin won 18 Grammy awards and was feted for her civil rights work, raising money for the cause and uplifting activists with her anthems.
The daughter of a prominent Baptist preacher and civil rights activist, Franklin sang at the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr., as well as the inaugurations of presidents Clinton and Barack Obama.
She was awarded America’s highest civilian honor by George W. Bush in 2005. Letters from Bush and Obama are expected to be read at the funeral.
People wait in line to attend ‘A People’s Tribute to the Queen’, an Aretha Franklin tribute event at Chene Park amphitheatre
A memorial to the late Aretha Franklin was set up outside the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan
An Aretha Franklin poster signed by fans hangs outside the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit
Mourners at New Bethel Baptist Church saw the music icon dressed in a sparkling rose gold floor-length gown accentuated with pink beaded lace and paired with gold-sequined Christian Louboutin heels Thursday.
Her accessories consisted of a custom-made pink south sea pearl necklace and earrings.
Franklin’s polished bronze casket sat at the front of the sanctuary, which was surrounded with photos of her and lavender and pink roses.
Thursday’s viewing took place at a church where Franklin’s father, Reverend CL Franklin, was the longtime pastor and she learned the gospel fundamentals that would make her a soul institution.
Members of the Nation of Islam were passing out copies of the newspaper The Last Call featuring Franklin on the front cover to those waiting in line to enter the church.
All that glitters: Pallbearers carry the polished-bronze casket of legendary singer Aretha Franklin into New Bethel Baptist Church Thursday in Detroit
The church viewing comes after two days of viewings at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Franklin was dressed in striking ruby-red for the first day, and wore a baby blue dress on the second day.
Linda Swanson, executive vice president of Swanson Funeral Home, revealed to the Detroit Free Press that there are additional sartorial surprises in store for Franklin’s many fans.
‘Just natural changes in wardrobe that a queen would make,’ she said, referring to the legendary vocalist’s planned funeral outfits.
Franklin’s invitation-only homegoing service will be held Friday at the Greater Grace Temple, one of the largest and most famous churches in the city.
More than two dozen ministers, performers both secular and gospel, along with black entertainers, athletes and civil rights activists make up a who’s who list of black America that will pay tribute to Franklin in a marathon service scheduled to last at least five hours.
In style: Aretha Franklin was transported to New Bethel Baptist Church in a vintage LaSalle, dressed in a sparkling rose gold floor-length gown accentuated with pink beaded lace and paired with gold-sequined Christian Louboutin heels