Fans mourn Aretha Franklin at gospel-infused public viewing
DETROIT (AP) — The regal presence Aretha Franklin exuded in life was captured at her viewing today, with the late Queen of Soul in a gold-plated casket dressed completely in red, including high-heeled pumps, proving, as one person put it, that she was a "diva to the end."
Hundreds of mourners poured into Detroit's Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History to pay their final respects to Franklin, who died Aug. 16 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 76. The two-day viewing was part of a week of commemorations for the legend, who will be buried Friday.
The Wright Museum is a cultural landmark in Detroit, where Franklin grew up and spent most of her life. Museum board member Kelly Major Green said the goal was to create a dignified and respectful environment akin to a church, the place where Franklin got her start.
"What we wanted to do is be reflective of the Queen," Green said. "It's beautiful. She's beautiful."
Green said Franklin's attire and pose communicated both power and comfort, as she did in life. The shoes, in particular, show "The Queen of Soul is diva to the end," Green said.
Fans strolled by the casket, some in tears; one woman blew a kiss to Franklin, who was surrounded by massive arrangements of roses of different hues.
Tammy Gibson, 49, of Chicago said she arrived about 5:30 a.m. She came alone but made fast friends with others who sang and reminisced.
Growing up, Gibson said she heard Franklin's music "playing all the time" by her parents, who "told me to go to bed – it's an adult party."
Outside the museum, she said: "I know people are sad, but it's just celebrating – people dancing and singing her music." Indeed, a group of women were singing her hit "Freeway of Love."
Franklin had been a constant in Gibson's life.