ARETHA FRANKLIN FUNERAL | Bill Clinton plays Aretha Franklin's 'Think'


DETROIT (AP) — Bill Clinton memorialized Aretha Franklin as a woman with "breathtaking talent" who kept on charming audiences despite her illness.

The former president recalled being an "Aretha groupie" all his life and being thrilled to meet her backstage at her last public performance, a benefit in Harlem for Elton John's AIDS charity last year. She was "gaunt" but went on to perform for 45 minutes.

"How you doing, baby?" she asked him.

"I'm doing better now," Clinton replied.

The former president also asked the audience to forgive him, saying he was happy that Franklin's casket was still open when he arrived because he just had to see what she was wearing.

Clinton said, "I wonder what my friend has got on today. I wanted to see what the girl was carrying out," to a wave of laughs and claps from the crowd. Franklin was wearing a gold gown, her fourth outfit of the week.

He ended his time by playing Franklin's "Think" on his iPhone into the mic. "It's the key to freedom!" Clinton said.

1:45 p.m.

DETROIT (AP) — Aretha Franklin's family members have paid tribute to a woman who cooked for them, gossiped with them and passed on her gifts to them.

Victorie Franklin, a granddaughter, said at the Queen of Soul's funeral that she will always cherish being part of Franklin's legacy, recognizing parts of her grandmother in her.

"Nothing sounded better to me than my grandmother's voice," said Victorie. "Her voice brought peace."

Grandson Jordan directed his remarks directly to Aretha, frequently stopping to fight back tears. "I'm sad today, because I'm losing my friend, but I know the imprint she left on this world can never be removed. You showed the world God's love, and there's nothing more honorable."

Aretha's son, Edward, sang "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" by Marvin Gaye.

Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush didn't attend the funeral but they sent messages to honor the Queen of Soul.

Obama, in a statement read by the Rev. Al Sharpton, hailed Franklin for reflecting "very best of the American story." Her music, he said, "captured some of our deepest human desires, namely affection and respect."

Bush's statement, read by Franklin friend Barbara Sampson, called Franklin "a woman of achievement with a deep character and a loving heart" who made "lasting contributions to American music with her gospel-inspired style and distinctive voice."

10:45 a.m.

DETROIT (AP) — Ariana Grande and her fiance, Pete Davidson, walked arm-in-arm and chatted with dignitaries like Bill Clinton before the funeral for Aretha Franklin.

The singer, who is scheduled to perform at the ceremony, and the "Saturday Night Live" cast member entered Detroit's Greater Grace Temple smiling on Friday and posed for photos. They even shared a brief kiss on the stage.

Others from the world of show biz seen in the church included Jennifer Hudson, Faith Hill, Tyler Perry and Jenifer Lewis.

The start of the service was delayed. Franklin's white hearse arrived more than two hours before the service was scheduled to start.

9:17 a.m.

DETROIT (AP) — Aretha Franklin is dressed in a sparkling full-length gold dress with sequined heels for her final outfit.

Mourners got a glimpse of the Queen of Soul before her funeral today during an open casket viewing at the Greater Grace Temple. The gold dress is the fourth outfit Franklin has worn during a week of events leading up to her funeral.

Franklin was dressed head to heel in red for her first public viewing on Tuesday, a nod to her membership in the sorority Delta Sigma Theta. She wore a baby blue dress on Wednesday and a rose gold gown for a viewing Thursday at the Detroit church where her father was the longtime pastor.

Numerous floral arrangements from celebrities including Sam Moore, Mariah Carey, Barbra Streisand and the family of Otis Redding were set up in a hallway outside the sanctuary.

Moore's arrangement included a card that read, "You know I always adored and loved you to bits and pieces ... Even when we would fuss."

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.